A Grand Night for Singing
Winter Park Playhouse
by Carl F. Gauze
Music and Lyrics by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park, FL
It’s been a good while since I’ve seen a show in a “real” theater, and that last experience may well have been in this very building. Tonight, live theater peeks out from under the covers and looks around to see if it’s safe to come out and play. Possibly. Probably. Good enough for me, at least. There’s about 30 or so live patrons in the house, and the musicians and singers wear clear plastic masks with microphones that sound good. And as always, the band hides in a far corner but still sounds great under Chris Leavy’s direction. It’s almost a typical night at WPPH, even if you must chug your Brandy Alexander before they let you into the theater.
Before “Rogers and Hammerstein,” there was “Rogers and Hart.” Roger’s first partner drank himself to death, but Rogers’ relation with Oscar Hammerstein was a bit more stable and left us with 11 solid works of musical theater and only a few flops. “Me and Juliet,” “Allegro” and “Pipe Dream” are rarely seen, but “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific and “The Sound of Music” make up all of that lost ground and more. Tonight, we hear a complex and engaging arrangement of the hits and obscurities sung by some of Orlando’s finest voices. I didn’t sense a strong story structure here; the order of the songs reflected musical continuity over story structure. “Carousel Waltz” and “Some Enchanted Evening” got us going, and “Impossible” and “I Have A Dream” ended the set. Its hard to pick any favorites here, and the songs flowed effortlessly from tune to tune. There’s no story to analyze, no relationships to unravel, just a pleasant glow of great music sung by great voices.
We operate with a cast of five and hear them in all possible combinations. “I Can’t Say No” comes from “Victoria” played by an enthusiastic Monica Titus reprising this “Oklahoma” favorite. Then there’s the big hit “Shall We Dance?” from “The King and I” channeling though Jason and Lynne (Matt Rothenberg and Courtney Cunningham). Martin and Alyson (Dustin Cunningham and Caila L. Carter) team up with Jason for the nice but little remembered “It’s Me” from “Me and Juliet.” It’s a dreamy evening’s worth of music, and a calming retreat for these troubled days. It’s also available as a stream, but that option only works for the length of the run. It looks like the Theatrical Publishers are reacting to a chilling new reality: “Zoom Musicals.” But stream what you will, nothing beats sitting in a dark room with good acoustics.