About 150 people were escorted on a sentimental journey by the eight-member cast of “As Time Goes By” on Sunday afternoon. The alluring new production at Quality Hill Playhouse revives songs of the World War II era.
About half of the members of the near-capacity audience were children when “Sentimental Journey” was a current hit. The lyric “gonna make a sentimental journey to renew old memories,” consequently, served as an apt theme for the show.
Vocalists Patrick Beasley, Lauren Braton, Kathryn Long and Vigthor Zophoniasson delivered “Sentimental Journey” in sweet four-part harmony. J. Kent Barnhart, the musical director and founder of Quality Hill Playhouse, added lively piano work and acted as a history-minded emcee. Reed player Matt Baldwin, bassist Brian Wilson and drummer Ken Remmert provided sensitive support.
Barnhart explained that he paired the optimistic 1936 standard “The Way You Look Tonight” with the 1945 composition “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” to “show the way things changed” as the war progressed. Long displayed a dazzling operatic voice and wonderfully emotive acting in her charming duet with Barnhart on a reading of the former selection. The second half of the pairing was less auspicious. Beasley and Braton resembled oddly chaste strangers as they crooned about pent-up desire.
The otherwise delightful Braton fared far better on the torch ballads “Darn That Dream” and “Dream.” She gamely catered to Barnhart’s cheeky side on a playful take of “Swinging on a Star.” Her contribution to the ensemble’s a cappella version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was also lovely.
While inspiring, “As Time Goes By” acknowledged the ravages of war in what Barnhart noted were songs “tinged with the knowledge that there would be loss.” Barnhart’s reading of the obscure “I Came Here to Talk for Joe” was heartbreaking. The enduring power of the selections didn’t require any justification, but Barnhart felt compelled to take unnecessary jabs at popular culture.
“I doubt that 70 years from now people will still be singing ‘Put a Ring on It,’” he said. In fact, the show would benefit from a bit of Beyoncé’s vivaciousness. The title song was one of a couple of disappointingly drab selections.
A rousing reading of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” brought many to their feet. The remainder of the audience joined them for the patriotic anthem “God Bless America” that provided a spirited conclusion to the nostalgic trip down memory lane.
“As Time Goes By” continues at Quality Hill Playhouse through May 21. See qualityhillplayhouse.com or call 816-421-1700.