Who doesn’t like a musical revue? It’s akin to going to a buffet, where you can sample that suits your tastes. You might get a surprise. And if one serving is not to your liking, another dish is served up right away. No need to wade through all of that messy exposition and denouement of a regular musical. You know–Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy finds Her or finds another Girl–or a variation thereof.
NextStop, serving quality music and theatre in a decidedly thin area of the Herndon-Dulles corridor, is the place for a summertime respite—the enchanting offering of “A Grand Night for Singing.”
And the music, so rich in our collective consciousness, is infectious. You can probably recall hearing the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein on television, in an ad jingle, an elevator, or a jazz club. Whenever you hear the remarkable work of R&H, it has a lightening effect on your soul. The music is witty, intelligent, clever and, perhaps most important, brilliantly designed to convey the perfect mood of an exact moment in a musical comedy.
“A Grand Night for Singing” was conceived by Walter Bobbie and opened on Broadway in 1993. It was nominated for two Tony Awards, for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue.
The packed lineup features songs from works you may not recognize, such as “Allegro,” “Me and Juliet”, “State Fair,” and “Pipe Dream,” modest successes like “Flower Drum Song” and well-known standards as “Oklahoma!,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific,” “Cinderella,” and “The Sound of Music.”
Featuring five performers with capable, expressive voices, the show presents the tunes in a fresh and fun manner. And you are reminded of how beautiful the music is (Rodgers) and how affecting the lyrics are (Hammerstein), especially when performed by a cast as talented as Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers, Karen Vincent, Marquise White and Matthew Hirsch. A youthful quintet, they dealt with the various themes of love, loss and optimism with verve, and show how much intellectual and emotional territory the tunes cover.
…the performers seem to realize that, as they lean back and simply trust the music to create great moments.
Karen Vincent is the perky lyric soprano with attitude, bursting with energy in “It Might As Well Be Spring” and holding the stage in the touching “I Know It Can Happen Again.” Sarah Anne Sillers lent her expressive tones and eyes to invigorate “That’s The Way It Happens” and kicked off a rousing number of (Everything’s Up To Date In) “Kansas City.” “When The Children Are Asleep” from “Carousel” with Matthew Hirsch was well received. Alto-Soprano Katherine Riddle was a nice understated contrast who soared in the upper octaves in “Something Wonderful.”
Marquise White and Matthew Hirsch round out the quintet. Hirsch provided great energy and expressive smooth vocals, highlighted in the sad “Love, Look Away” from “Flower Drum Song.” He and White perform a great coordinated movement in the hilarious back and forth in “It’s Me.” White’s solid baritone was quite flexible and supported the vocal strength of the show. I especially enjoyed “This Nearly Was Mine” though the clamshells in “Honey Bun” was a minor oops.
Most impressive is the use of space, of which NextStop has precious little. The set is set as a cozy cabaret, with tables onstage but enough room for choral numbers.The performers navigated their places and interacted, well, like they got together and just started singing. The tunes actually sell themselves, and the performers seemed to realize that, as they leaned back and simply trusted the music to create great moments.
A nod to director and choreographer Michael J. Bobbitt who has his performers moving and dancing around the stage in a manner that lets the music (and the performers) breathe, and musical director Elisa Rosman and her 3 piece orchestra present the tunes with a snappy subtlety, though they are tightly quartered onstage and music needs augmented amplification to balance in the 126 seat theatre. A grand night.
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes with an intermission.
“A Grand Night for Singing” is presented by the NextStop Theatre Company at 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon VA, from July 20 to August 12, 2017. For information on this or other shows in the 2017 season, call OvationTix: 866-811-4111 or online.