The perfect punctuation to a perfectly marvelous opening!
Following A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING at the beautifully restored Bucks County Playhouse which many thought would never re-open, the weekly Friday fireworks began in New Hope on the Delaware River just yards away from the historic theater.
Although the fireworks fizzled (for awhile), the show sizzled from the start! It was entertaining, exuberant, musically delightful, amusing — everything a professionally produced musical should be.
Anticipation was heavier than the humidity as people excitedly entered the theatre to sit in new seats. They cheered as producing director Jed Bernstein, in his pre-show curtain speech, thanked them for attending. Many people proudly raised their hands to Bernstein’s question: “How many of you are members?” He invited more people to become involved.
The audiences wanted the show to be wonderful; New Hope wants the Playhouse to succeed. Based on the quality of the current opening production, BCP will not let them down.
Five talented professional singers from Broadway, Off-Broadway and other regional professional companies comprise the cast. Each one can sing and dance; every one of them has personality that spills over the “footlights” and blankets the audience.
Kenita Miller is a crowd-pleaser with her warm, strong voice, and saucy style. Ron Bohmer brought his rich baritone voice (think “Phantom”); silky tenor Greg Bosworth is fun and liquid in his movements. Both Courtney Balan and Erin Davie know how to sell a song and to assume various characterizations.
Six excellent musicians seated on center stage become involved now and then with the cast, in particular, the conductor/pianist, Phil Reno, who is a sort-of sixth performer, interacting with the singers, occasionally singing a few phrases.
New York director Lonny Price charmed this production with his vision. Each number tells a little story, and to make it better, he and his team contemporized the music, sometimes blending two of the more than 30 Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and stepping up the tempo of the music so that the songs were not so sleepy as they may have been in the original productions, surprising us with different, clever “takes” on the meanings of some of the songs.
Price, with an impressive program bio nearly half a page long, recently directed the stage and film version of the New York Philharmonic’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY, but his huge list of credits include directing some of the biggest stars in award-winning acclaimed shows in the best Broadway houses.
Price and his choreographer, Lorin Latarro, kept the cast moving and posing interestingly — downstage, six stairs on either side of the musicians or upstage on the ramp behind them.
Set designer, Jim Noone, created a simple, yet effective set with a huge drop screen at the beginning showing tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein at a piano. The photo flies out later and the background changes with lighting by Kirk Bookman, a curtain, and finally more photos are flown in at the end of the two men who wrote the book and the music and had warm, strong connections to the area, including “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” which was written in Bucks County.
Unable to contain their happy reaction to one after another familiar song, and finding it difficult to sit still as they toe-tapped in their seats, people sprang to their feet at the end, exploding in applause to show their indescribable pleasure to the slick, talented cast and on-stage musicians.
Amazingly, the air conditioning inside the theatre was just right! The sound was perfect. In fact, everything is so right! Bucks County Playhouse has come full circle.
One acquaintance remarked to me at intermission, “I’ve already made a substantial contribution to the theatre, but could not have imagined this show would be so wonderful as it is. I’m going home to write another check. I want them to succeed!”
This writer surmises other patrons will feel the same way. This celebration has been a long time coming! The New Hope community is grateful to Kevin and Sherri Daugherty for huge contributions to rebuild the Playhouse and to local non-theatre person, Peggy McRae, for her quest to make sure the playhouse didn’t die, and to Jed Bernstein for his “know how” and leadership which has guided BCP to this height.
A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING continues through July 29 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursdays and Saturdays at 4 and 8:30 PM, Fridays at 7:30 (fireworks at 9:30), and Sundays at 2 PM.
Tickets are available at bcptheater.org or 215-862-2121. Prices vary.
A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Lonny Price
July 2 – 29, 2012
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S. Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938