Harold Arlen and Irving Berlin are two of the greatest American composers of the 20th century. Any show that features these two musical legends’ work should be just that – great! The In Series’ Arlen Blues and Berlin Ballads’ song list reads like an old hit parade chart. Songs such as “I Love A Piano,” “Stormy Weather,” “Over The Rainbow,” and a lesser known Arlen song from the epic animated disaster (except for the songs) Gay Purree called “The Money Cat.”
The cast is made up of five performers and three musicians. Jase Parker is particularly good in the number Berlin wrote for This Is The Army called “Oh How I Hate to Get up in the Morning.” Leslie Vincent a relative newcomer is one of those performers that I hope we are going to see a lot of in the future. Her rendition of “Wonder What Became of Me” is beautiful. Pam Ward’s “Over The Rainbow” is sung quite with lots of emotion, and her rendition of “Stormy Weather” with saxophonist Marshall Keyes was another highlight. Lew Freeman’s “Last Night When We Were Young” showed off Mr. Freeman’s voice to full potential and Tammy Roberts wowed the audience with “Get Happy.”
The singers are backed by Musical Director and Pianist Stanley Thurston, Marshall Keyes on Saxophone and Ephriam Wolfolk on Bass. The trio provides just the right amount of accompaniment to support the singers.
Directors Abel Lopez and Angelisa Gillyard have created Arlen Blues and Berlin Ballads to have a real thin plot line about six people meeting in Freedom Plaza. I would have liked to have known more about the characters in the plotline, and because we were only introduced to them, the slight ‘book’ by Bari Beirn got in the way. If the show was presented as a concert or revue it would have worked better.
Sets and Lighting are by A.J. Guban. Mr. Guban’s attractive but minimal set portrayal of Freedom Plaza does just what it needs to do without being overbearing to the production.
If I “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” in this production – there is a lot of great music and some fine performances.
Running time: 90 minutes, including one intermission.
Arlen Blues and Berlin Ballads plays through December 11, 2011, at The Atlas Center for The Performing Arts’ Sprenger Theater- 1333 H street NE, in Washington DC. For tickets, call (202) 204-7763, or order them online.