by Robert Beizer

For those of us who love classic American Musical Theater, the most revered creators of the genre have to be Rodgers and Hammerstein. The review of their music currently playing at the Schubert Theatre of DeSales University is a wonderful stroll down memory lane.

Jacob Dresch, Colleen Clancy, Leah Poyo, and Anthony Connell perform in Act 1’s Rodgers and Hammerstein musical revue “A Grand Night for Singing” running October 14 to October 24 at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts in Center Valley.

The theater is intimate enough that microphones are not required, although some of the singers are not quite up to either the vocal or interpretive demands of the material. In all honesty it is difficult to imagine that a twenty-something has the world experience to completely understand where Emile de Becque, a middle aged French planter, is coming from when he sings “This Nearly Was Mine”.

The director did note, in an article about the show in the lobby, that an attempt was made to play the songs out of context and go for their inherent meanings. I think this worked well for some but not all the numbers in the show.

The cast was very energetic and there are some wonderful comic turns during the show. The set design allowed for various levels but it did split the pianist/conductor and other players on opposite sides of the stage making the music flow unevenly to my ear. It is truly an ensemble production.

Some of the staging and choreography worked to a disadvantage of the performers. This is often a problem when two roles are taken on by the same person as here with director/choreographer Steven Petrillo.

I would look forward to the Act1 company considering SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM next season, Sondheim being the number one Hammerstein protege.

This is a worthy mounting of the production and if you have better luck in finding the University campus and theater than I did both last weekend and this week past, you will have an enjoyable time. Get good directions online or borrow a GPS.

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Steven Petrillo
October 14 – 24, 2010
Act 1 DeSales University
Schubert Theater
2755 Station Ave
Center Valley, PA

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