richardrodgers.gif (12204 bytes)

Muny and Richard Rodgers make a winning combination
by Daniel Hines
Two examples of what is great about American music--Richard Rodgers and the St. Louis Muny came together in the July 3 opening night production of 'An Evening of Richard Rodgers', presented by an outstanding cast of singers and dancers.
The many songs of Rodgers that were performed are too numerous to mention. Try to imagine two hours of 'The Sweetest Sounds', 'It's a Grand Night for Singing,' 'I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy', 'Surrey with the Fringe on Top', 'June is Bustin' Out All Over.'…and that's only in the first few moments of the first act.
Add selections from 'The King and I', 'Do I Hear A Waltz', 'Oklahoma', 'South Pacific', and you get a new appreciation of the genius of Rodgers.
But one still needs the performers to carry such a heavy responsibility. The Muny and Paul Blake and David Levy, who conceived the concept, did an admirable job.
There were some opening night problems, but they lasted for only a few minutes. The only exception was the orchestra. It started with its volume turned up to the fullest. It did not seem to understand that sometimes softness and a better instrumental interpretation of the moods of some of the ballads would have enhanced the performances.
But the evening belonged to the performers. Sarah Uriarte Berry, a beautiful wisp of a young woman, was stunning with her range and projection. When she and James Clow performed 'People Will Say We're in Love,' there was a chemistry that captivated the audience. Clow, as was the rest of the performers, was outstanding throughout the evening, including a specialty number in which he and the St. Louis Strutters, a dance troupe of attractive 'older' ladies who are outstanding show dancers, performed 'You Mustn't Kick it Around.'
When writing about a large cast in which all had a particular highlight, it is difficult to mention everyone. But a special kudo to Karen Morrow for her rendition of 'The Lady is A Tramp,' which she localized with a St. Louis and Muny theme to the delight of the audience. Her strong, somewhat husky voice also carried over to a torchsong-like rendition of 'Blue Moon." Add to this the fact that she was performing with a broken elbow (always wrapped beautifully to match her gowns, and you have a special appreciation for her energy and talent.
Walter Charles is a fantastic performer, and his rendition of 'Some Enchanted Evening' helped make the evening just that. Leslie Denniston, whom we enjoyed last year in 'The King and I' seemed to have problems in the opening number finding her range, but, as might be expected more than redeemed herself in a delightful dance number with Lee Roy Reams to 'Shall We Dance?', and a strongly performed 'It Might As Well Be Spring.'
Reams was a spark throughout the evening. He sings. He dances. Not only talented, he is someone who obviously enjoys what he does. 'Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City' was energetic, colorful, fun and, although he was almost upstaged by one of the members of the Muny kids who matched him step for step, it was all in the fun sprit of the evening.
Craig Rubano has a strong and outstanding voice and he is versatile. His duet with Berry on 'This Can't Be Love' early in act one was likely what really set the pace and standard for the rest of the evening. He also excelled on 'My Funny Valentine', from 'Pal Joey.' One of my personal highlights was his redition of 'Take the Moment."
He is scheduled to appear in November at Cabaret at the Grandel Theatre, and the brief hint that we caught once of an almost Torme-like "fogginess" makes us certain that it will be worth seeing him in a more intimate theatre setting.
If all of this wasn't enough, Avery Sommers, who showed the audience what a "Red Hot Mamma" really is (also with the St. Louis Strutters), came back with two other excellent interpretations: the first time, doing 'Bewitched', before leaving many in the audience in a teared-up mood with her strong voice, but most importantly, her inspired interpretation of 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'
But, to ensure that everyone left in an upbeat mood, the entire cast came back with a audience-clapping and energetic rendition of 'Oklahoma.'
A wonderful evening and one that we recommend getting to before the run concludes this week.

Back to Index