Various - A Grand Night for Singing - Musical Theatre Review

It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein, alright, but not as we ordinarily know it (this new staging is conceived by Kim Criswell with Wayne Marshall as music director). This show has the feeling of a concert of sorts, with occasional vignettes following a loose narrative. The opening bars give a hint of what’s to come with a blend of ‘Edelweiss, ‘Sound of Music Overture’, ‘The Carousel Waltz’ and ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ woven together in a delicious pot-pourri that simply works.

Setting the orchestra centre stage is an informed choice as this is a masterclass in re-imagining the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon anew through creative arrangements.

Every vocalist is at the absolute top of their game and revel in some of the twists and quirks used in the performance to ‘refresh’ classics, borrowing from a range of genres and styles to surprise the ear. ‘Kansas City’ performed in shades set to a classic Rat Pack rhythm and style; how do you solve a problem like ‘Maria’ sung from a therapist’s couch, and by a man; or, perhaps a little bit more of a stretch to envisage – an Uber ride as a ‘Surrey With a Fringe on Top’.

The pace is lively and can turn from humour to poignancy in just a few well-directed beats. Highlights must include the socially-distanced ‘Shall We Dance?’ and the boogie-woogie close harmonies brought to ‘Many a New Day’/‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair’ and the quirky rendition of ‘Might As Well Be Spring’ that owes more to Sondheim’s ‘Not Getting Married Today’ than Deanna Durbin! Truly ‘Something Wonderful’.

The auditorium is designed to comply with the current challenges of the pandemic – a vast, cavernous, open-sided tent allowing for seating to be as well-spaced as possible keeping the audience totally safe. There is something rather lovely about the daylight, too – of the audience and performers seeing each other clearly as toes tap across a far from crowded room. A grand time, indeed.

Musical Theatre Review
11 August 2021