I think every performer has a song that they wished they could sing in performance, but there’s something that takes it out of your reach. In Bethesda Little Theatre’s latest cabaret show, they do some gender swapping to allow their performers a crack at “Songs I Never Get To Sing.”
The latest in a long tradition of cabarets from BLT, “Songs I Never Get To Sing” takes the audience on a gender-bending journey through genres. While the majority of the tunes included are from Broadway, the company also veers into pop territory. There is also a great balance between group and ensemble numbers and solo performances.
…it was a highly enjoyable evening of music, which had you tapping your toe, laughing, and getting to experience some great songs in a new way.
The theatre is a black box style, with lots of space to move around and the stadium style seating means there’s not a bad seat in the house. The stage is set up as a bar, and the set up of the show is that it’s open mic night with a theme of cross-gendered songs. The show is opened with a Broadway opening number; “Wilkommen,” from “Cabaret,” this time sang by a female (Sandy Burns Gorton.) The barman, Martin Bestimt (who also created and directed the revue) announces the theme for the night, and steps up to mic for a charming performance of “My Fair Lady’s” “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
Most cast members got an opportunity to shine in a solo number. Some highlights are Karen Fitch’s performance of “All I Need is the Girl,” from “Gypsy.” Her vocals are strong, and she delivers an impressive tap solo during the number. Amanda Dullin-Jones performs an excellent rendition of another “My Fair Lady” tune, “On the Street Where You Live.” She was completely believable as someone totally in love, and her belt was dynamite. Cathy McCoskey did a great job with the comic number “Mr. Cellophane” from “Chicago,” successfully navigating both the comic and sympathetic moments of the song. Justin Cunningham delivers a great balance of serious vocals and comedy on the famously tart number “The Ladies Who Lunch,” from “Company.” Marissa Papatola also blew the audience away with a powerful version of “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story.”
There were also several strong small ensemble numbers included in the show. The first one was a personal favorite of this reviewer- “Fuge for Tinhorns” from “Guys and Dolls” performed by McCoskey, Fitch, and Leslie Blaha. It was a tight performance of this classic, and their use of dynamics to feature each individual part was perfection. The duet between Jessica Cooperstock and Melissa Trelstad was also a funny/accomplished vocal moment as their beautiful sopranos joined for “Agony” from “Into the Woods.” Cooperstock also took lead very ably in the Act II opener of “Luck Be A Lady,” also from “Guys and Dolls.”
The women started this act with a bang and was a highlight of the show. The men had their chance to shine on two hilarious entries; first with a hysterical mash-up of “Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity” and “You Gotta Get A Gimmick,” from “Gypsy, complete with feather boas, and then an unexpected portrayal of “Wannabe”- the pop song from the Spice Girls. Cunningham, Bestimt, Arthur Glover, and John Spouge were all charmingly game for these numbers. Perhaps my favorite of these, though was “Buddy’s Blues” from “Follies” performed by Papatola, with supporting help from Glover and Spouge. It was another number that had excellent vocals made even better by comic support from the performers.
Finally, the entire company joined together for some effervescent group numbers to end both acts. Act I was concluded with a medley of tunes from The Who’s rock opera “Tommy.” It featured a combination of the songs “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “Listening to You.” It was a great balance of high energy and beautiful feeling and has more opportunity to feature the talented cast. In similar style, the closing number is “Tonight” from “West Side Story,” which, while not a true medley, does allow the cast to be featured in different motifs, bringing the threads of several songs from other places in the show together. It is a challenging piece (most Sondheim is) and the cast is able to handle it well. Overall, it is an enjoyable exploration of song performance that you don’t get to see every day.
Costumes are kept relatively simple, but there sparkles aplenty that help to add some razzle-dazzle to the performance (Costumes by Alice Page Smyth). The piano and drum accompaniment are perfect compliments to the vocals, and are excellent (Jeffrey Hayes- Music Director and Piano, Neil McElroy on drums.) The only real suggestions this reviewer would have is that it might have been nice to have microphones for the performers, even in this small space, as sometimes their voices were a bit overpowered by the accompaniment, and while there were a lot of different numbers style-wise, many of the songs came either from the same show or composers. A bit more variety would have been welcomed. However, it was a highly enjoyable evening of music, which had you tapping your toe, laughing, and getting to experience some great songs in a new way.
Running Time: 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.
“Songs I Never Get To Sing” is playing now through May 12th at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center. This show is appropriate for most audiences.
For more information on tickets, click here.