Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
Musical Arrangements by Fred Wells
Conceived by Walter Bobbie
Directed by David Fuller
Musical Direction by Michael Harren
Equity Showcase (closed
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh
Theater Ten Ten’s production of A Grand Night for Singing is a smooth, brisk revue that covers a whopping 38 songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon in less than two hours. The highlights of the evening were the simple, well-delivered unabridged solos, the innovative reinventions of well-known songs, the illumination of esoteric songs, and most especially the group’s lush, full harmonies.
The show begins with a sung-through overture and continues
with vignettes, medleys, snippets and occasionally unabridged songs by the pair
that set the gold standard for musical theater. That selections from Rodgers
& Hammerstein’s eleven musicals are wonderfully, impeccably devised and
crafted is impossible to argue against. The problems with the show, thus, lay
in its conception. First off, the roles fail to have character journeys –
everyone seems to be in love with everyone at some point in the evening, which
becomes frustrating and confusing. It would’ve been far more interesting and
clever for each character to have a specific through-line told throughout the
evening. Also odd are the song choices: the underlying theme appears to be love
However, the production is so well-rendered that it is possible to overlook the innate problems of the piece and completely be immersed. A lot of this credit should be given to director David Fuller. With an astute sense of space he used various levels to create beautiful, balanced tableaus. Furthermore, he infused the show with a fluid momentum, seamless transitions, and coached his actors with specific purpose. He is aided by the jovial, lively, adorable choreography of Brittney Jensen.
All five performers were trained singers, and the blend created via the harmonies was sublime. Singing unplugged, the vivid arrangements floated from the stage. Additionally, all five actors had very clear intentions throughout their numbers and nurtured subtleties within the songs while seeming to have a grand time. All five actors got at least one chance to shine, as well: Kerry Conte showed off her comic timing in “It’s Me,” while Jessica Greeley showed off hers in “I Cain’t Say No.” Judith Jarosz delivered a poignant “Something Wonderful” while Mishi Schueller performed a heart-wrenching “Love Look Away.” Finally, David Tillistrand brought the house down with his touching “This Nearly Was Mine.”
On the technical side, Giles Hogya’s set design was artistically angular, and somehow felt very feng shui-ed. His lighting design was flexible enough to capture the myriad of playing levels created by Fuller. Viviane Galloway’s costume scheme was vivacious and colorful – draping the girls in different bright colored, solid dresses.
Always engaging and never dull, A Grand Night for Singing certainly was a grand night OF singing.
Copyright 2008 by Seth Bisen-Hersh
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