- 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
- 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
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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