A Grand Night for Singing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Grand Night for Singing

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A Grand Night for Singing, Drury Lane Dinner Theatre.

It was no small coup for Drury Lane to land the rights to the first post-Broadway revival of this 1994 Tony-nominated revue, a supple and ingratiating compilation of beloved or obscure songs from the inexhaustible Rodgers and Hammerstein canon. Gracefully anchored by Alan Donahue's elegant gazebo, Marc Robin's staging essentially honors the trust despite a breakneck first act in which a cloying cuteness infects the byplay. But the solidly honed quintet, undeterred by the crowd-pleasing antics, embrace the 42 musical numbers, even though they rush by (often in a blur of medley fragments). It's not easy when "We Kiss in a Shadow" is sprung on us with no more setup than a hasty "Maybe we should slow down."

Wisely the lilting waltzes (like the title number) and joyous ballads (like the rapturous "A Wonderful Guy," ecstatically sung by Pamela Harden) are left to sing themselves. Other songs are transformed into unexpected novelties: there's a jazzy, slinky take on "Kansas City," the vaudevillian "Honey Bun" is translated into 1940s bebop, and "A Hundred Million Miracles" is surrounded by twinkling lights. Kurt Johns shows off his suave comic charm in a campy "Shall We Dance" and his lyrical range in the too-seldom-heard "Love Look Away." Though Carol Kuykendall is undone by a frantic "I Cain't Say No," she comes into her own with "Some Enchanted Evening." Blessed with a baritone to refresh any solo, Robert Gallagher rediscovers the wonder of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'." Finally, Chicago favorite Paula Scrofano makes The King and I's "Something Wonderful" just that.

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