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An Evening with Richard Rodgers
By Judith Newmark
Post-Dispatch Theater Critic
"An Evening with Richard Rodgers" is about as relaxing as theater gets. This pretty revue puts superb material in the hands, the throats and occasionally the feet of an accomplished cast, then lets talent take its course. It makes for a carefree evening.
Most of the principals are Muny veterans, many of whom have appeared here in musicals that the composer wrote with Lorenz Hart or with Oscar Hammerstein II. Karen Morrow deserves the trouper award for going on with the show even though she broke her elbow during rehearsal.
The costumers came through with slings to match her evening ensembles, and Morrow delivers all-out performances of songs ranging from "Blue Moon" to "Bali Ha'i." That one has to be a treat for her. This good-looking blonde will never play Bloody Mary, but she presents her signature number seductively.
Morrow also sings "The Lady is a Tramp." First comes the original version, followed by new lyrics written by Paul Blake, who created the revue with David Levy and also directs.

The localized lyrics are a big audience-pleaser, incorporating sports heroes Kurt Warner and Mark McGwire, dessert hero Ted Drewes, The Muny's free seats and Post-Dispatch columnist Jerry Berger. A certain drama critic comes up, too.
Each of the principals gets a chance to shine. Lee Roy Reams bounces through "Kansas City" with young Jack Erbs and other boys from the Muny Kids and Muny Teen ensembles. The St. Louis Strutters have a ball tapping to "You Mustn't Kick It Around," smartly performed by James Clow.

Since Rodgers wrote 1,000 songs, any revue will omit somebody's favorites. Still, the show hits a lot of high points. Leslie Denniston, who has starred at The Muny in "The King and I" and "South Pacific," is charming in numbers from both. On opening night, her voice clutched a little on "A Wonderful Guy," but she recovered quickly and was in great shape by the time she wondered, "Do I Hear a Waltz?"
Walter Charles and Sarah Uriarte Berry strike the evening's deepest emotional notes with successive renditions of two poignant love songs, "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific" and "If I Loved You" from "Carousel." (Unfortunately, The Muny doesn't list the original shows in the program. It would have been a thoughtful touch.)

Two Muny newcomers, Avery Sommers and Craig Rubano, fit right in. Rubano, a  rising New York performer who comes from St. Louis, gracefully introduces the only unfamiliar song, "Take the Moment." Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for that one. Sommers sizzles through Rodgers and Hart's "Terrific Rainbow," then switches to soulful style in a fresh treatment of one of the big inspirational songs that Rodgers and Hammerstein were inclined to, "You'll Never Walk Alone."

That threatens to be the last number, but Blake wisely ends on an upbeat note, with the whole ensemble singing "Oklahoma!"
Visually, the show is understated. The dance team of Arte Phillips and Victoria Regan capture the haunting spirit of "If I Loved You," but their performance of  "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" looks weirdly attenuated. Basically, it's a show to listen to, not to watch. Scenic designer James Wolk cleverly scales down the vast Muny stage by putting the orchestra on it, under a huge portrait of Rodgers. It really is his evening.
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