A starry night, with a huge moon looking down, is the perfect setting for an evening of songs that have become part of musical theatre history. This is the look and the sound of SOME ENCHANTED EVENING, now running through July 16, 2017, at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts, just south of DC off of I-95.
As I have reported for several reviews of Riverside's recent shows, the food quality at this dinner theatre keeps improving. But the meal is a mere precursor to the performance at hand. As Riverside kicks off their 20th season, director and producer Patrick A'Hearn has tapped into the musical DNA of the nation by presenting a pleasant musical review featuring highlights from prolific and legendary Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
There shows are among the most popular and recognizable musicals of the mid-20th century, starting with OKLAHOMA! (1943) and wrapping up with their last collaboration in 1959, THE SOUND OF MUSIC. If you have never seen those two musicals, then forget about CAROUSEL, SOUTH PACIFIC, and THE KING AND I. Of course, most people have not only heard of these, they contain many of the most popular songs from the Golden Age of Musicals. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING mines these shows for the big songs, as well as FLOWER DRUM SONG, ME AND JULIET, ALLEGRO, STATE FAIR, and the TV musical CINDERELLA.
A'Hearn has assembled a lively cast of singer-actors and added a youth ensemble to bring new life to the song selections, popular and obscure. Working with the nimble choreography of Stephanie Wood, and under the precise musical direction of Garret Jones, A'Hearn keeps the multi-generational ensemble moving along nicely from number to number, playing to the strengths of each performer.
Baritones Wyn Delano and Russell Rinker handle their songs with big voices and manly swagger; while tenor Chris Rudy takes on many of the romantic ballads and charm songs. Rinker delivers "Soliloquy," the leading man's tour de force song from CAROUSEL with the right amount of vocal prowess and pathos. Delano gives "This Nearly Was Mine" from SOUTH PACIFIC its due. "We Kiss in the Shadow," one of the many selections from THE KING AND I, is performed tenderly by Rudy. All three gentlemen singers have a number of moments to shine comically, such as "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" Usually sung by the nun's about the troublemaking Maria Rainer from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, here it becomes a song of desperation by three men frustrated by a lady friend.
On the distaff side, brassy contralto Kathy Halenda makes another welcome appearance on the Riverside stage, bringing her bold voice and comic timing along for the ride. Her rousing rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is a showstopper.
Another of Riverside's familiar faces, Sheri Hayden, is also back, this time taking on many of the songs first introduced by R & H star Mary Martin, with songs from SOUTH PACIFIC and THE SOUND OF MUSIC featured heavily in her tune-stack. She handles them with style and grace.
Abby Middleton wraps her silvery soprano voice around such favorites as "It Might As Well Be Spring" and in her duet with Wyn Delano, "If I Loved You." Rounding out the featured vocalists is Alona Orofino who takes on such favorites as "I Cain't Say No," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful," handling comedy and ballads with equal skill.
The children's ensemble features (alphabetically) Mitchell Austin, Madison Brooke, Marcus Dowd, Erin Haugen, Alexander Kent, and Sydney Wynn. Each youth has ample stage presence and makes the most of their appearances. "Getting to Know You," "Do Re Mi" and "Impossible" are among the times the kids get to take the stage.
By not including a song list in the program, the director keeps the audience guessing which songs will be included and how they will be presented. This allows the lesser known gems to sneak up on the audience as they emerge from a sea of well-known selections. If you have a favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein song, have no fear: just like the old commercial stated, "it's in there."
SOME ENCHANTED EVENING is given an elegant atmosphere of a moonlit conservatory terrace by scenic designer Jennifer Taglieri. Michael Jarett's subtle lighting design contributes to the evening of elegance. Gaye Law, a Riverside veteran, provides classy evening wear and gowns for the adults and dressy party outfits for the youth.
As musical revues go, SOME ENCHANTED EVENING may not be the most inspired collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein highlights, but Riverside Center makes the most of the show by providing a talented cast and a first class instrumental ensemble in support. Come for dinner, stay for the music; they will have you talking "happy talk" in no time.
Follow Jeff Walker on Twitter - @jeffwalker66
Produced by Riverside Center - 95 Riverside Parkway - Fredericksburg, VA 22406
Through July 16, 2017
Two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission.
For tickets, call 540.370.4300 or go to Riverside Box Office