Delivering Broadway's Best

August 13, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

Broadway at its best often appears as vocal chamber music.

If you have doubts about this, the prerumble "Tonight" quintet from "West Side Story," the "Fugue for Tinhorns" that opens "Guys and Dolls" or Stephen Sondheim's ingenious "Once Upon a Time" from "Into the Woods" should mollify them.

Even in high-quality community theater productions, it is the ensemble numbers that go awry most frequently. A drop-off in vocal quality anywhere among the leads means that important harmonies don't gel and that the emotional impact of the moment is compromised.

I was reminded of show-biz's chamber music dimension last weekend as I watched "Broadway Songbook," an anthology of hits from the Great White Way that will play at the Annapolis Dinner Theater through Sept. 5. While there were accomplished solos delivered by the show's singing sextet, it was the ensemble numbers that simply knocked my socks off.

For drama, there was a crackling account of the aforementioned "Tonight" reprise from "West Side Story." On the lighter side, the adorably clever "Book Report" from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" was performed with flair and energy that left the original cast album in the dust.

The three fellows -- Dan Felton, Mike Quinn and Jesse Foreman -- are hilarious in their cross-dresses as "Theater Party Ladies" and delightful in such Frank Loesser hits as "Standin' On The Corner" and the "Fugue for Tinhorns."

The women -- Kate Stevenson, Tina DeSimone and Janet Gordon -- are equally adept in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" from Stephen Sondheim's "Company." As with the guys, each and every sassy harmony is absolutely nailed.

The zippiest solos of the evening are delivered by Jesse Foreman, a natural song and dance man who lights up like a Christmas tree every second he's on stage.

I was also impressed with Mr. Felton's beautiful "Music of the Night" (from "Phantom," of course), and a deeply moving "Send in the Clowns" from Miss Stevenson.

There are a few rough spots. Miss Stevenson is a mezzo out of water when she essays the lyric soprano repertoire. The "Showboat" medley is uneventful and, frankly, left me at the dock. And surely a hearty baritone could have been rustled up and added to the cast. "Oklahoma" just isn't "Oklahoma" without one.

But, quibbles aside, the Annapolis Dinner Theater is back, and this "Broadway Songbook" definitely merits a midsummer night's listen.

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