Music News & Reviews

Quality Hill Playhouse’s ‘A Grand Night for Singing’ hit all the right notes

Alison Sneegas Borberg (from left), bassist Brian Wilson, pianist Lenora Remmert, Taylor Avazpour, Jessalyn Kincaid and drummer Ken Remmert in Quality Hill Playhouse’s “A Grand Night for Singing.”
Alison Sneegas Borberg (from left), bassist Brian Wilson, pianist Lenora Remmert, Taylor Avazpour, Jessalyn Kincaid and drummer Ken Remmert in Quality Hill Playhouse’s “A Grand Night for Singing.” Quality Hill Playhouse

“A Grand Night for Singing,” the Tony-nominated revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, provides an entertaining change of pace from the Quality Hill Playhouse’s usual cabaret shows.

Rick Truman ably directs what is a loosely connected series of almost 40 songs that serve as vignettes, or miniature plays, showcasing the themes of love: finding, keeping and losing it — and hoping to find it again.

Not every song is from one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musicals. Some were not huge successes. Remember “Allegro” from 1947? Or “Me and Juliet” from 1953? The show’s title song comes from the 1945 movie “State Fair.” It was refreshing to hear music I hadn’t heard before.

This revue, conceived by Walter Bobbie and with arrangements by Fred Wells, gives a fresh look at the duo’s work so that even old favorites get a new spin.

Take the song “Maria,” from “The Sound of Music,” in which nuns complain about their problem postulant. But in “A Grand Night for Singing,” Taylor Avazpour captures the confusion of a young man in love with Maria, who seems to be something of a problem. Drummer Ken Remmert has one of the funniest lines of the show with his suggestion of how to handle her.

My favorite moments were the comedic, of which there were many. While Avazpour woos her with “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” Jessalyn Kincaid delights the audience with her reactions, going from a “Do I know you?” attitude to leaving the stage smitten with Avazpour.

But after her departure, Alison Sneegas Borberg and Sarah LaBarr are hilarious in their jealousy with the fast-paced “The Stepsisters’ Lament” from the TV production of “Cinderella.”

Robert J. Hingula makes his Quality Hill debut in this show and shines with a jazzy version of “Honey Bun” (and its politically incorrect lyrics) as the other cast members join in for a lively showstopper.

Love conjures up many emotions, including anger, heartbreak and longing, and all of those are covered.

Borberg, Kincaid and LaBarr recall the harmonies of the Andrews Sisters with their rendition of “Many a New Day/I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.”

Kincaid vents her frustration with a certain man in “The Gentleman Is a Dope,” while LaBarr’s “If I Loved You” is full of longing. Borberg, who makes a welcome return to the Quality Hill stage, does a simply beautiful version of “Something Wonderful.”

Avazpour’s “Love, Look Away” breaks your heart, as does Hingula’s “This Nearly Was Mine.” The show ends on an optimistic note, though, with “Impossible/I Have Dreamed,” performed by the entire cast.

A dramatic, star-filled sky provides the backdrop to the stage, with just a simple park bench by the grand piano, leaving as much space as possible on the small Quality Hill stage for action.

The accompaniment is flawless, with musical director Lenora Remmert on piano, husband Ken on drums and Brian Wilson on bass.

Choreographer Christina Burton makes great use of the limited space for dance numbers. Particularly fun, of course, is “Shall We Dance?” as Avazpour and Borberg overcome their initial awkwardness to waltz across the stage.

Georgianna Londre Buchanan’s costumes featuring pastels and floral prints evoke a cheerful look.

Onstage

“A Grand Night for Singing” runs through May 22 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St. For more information, call 816-421-1700 or go to QualityHillPlayhouse.com.

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