Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Jose/Silicon Valley

Oh, Coward!
Pear Theatre
Review by Jeanie K. Smith

Michael Rhone, Elizabeth Kruse Craig, Dan Kapler,
Kristin Brownstone, and Brad Arington

Photo by Michael Craig
Only the second musical ever to be produced in the Pear Theatre's mainstage season, Oh, Coward! arrives as a sparkling summer cocktail, a welcome relief from doldrums and reading too much news. It also helps that it's a splendid production, with a quartet of tuneful, seasoned performers. Sir Noël Coward's witticisms and erudite songs have seldom been given better expression than in the Pear's delightful show.

The revue was put together by Roderick Cook in 1972 as an homage to a career that spanned four decades, highlighting both well-known crowd pleasers and lesser-known gems. Coward's last public appearance was at a gala performance of the revue in 1973. His lyrics are filled with satire and puns, surprising rhymes, and almost always tell a story. Rarely they wax poetic and thoughtful, giving us a lovely ballad or two.

And, even though a significant percentage of the songs were written in the 1930s, there's much that relates to present society—it's easy to recognize characters and situations in our contemporary milieu. Language can also be a trap in these wordy, fast-spoken lyrics, but the Pear quartet are fully up to speed and articulation so that we can hear and understand all the quips.

With Brad Arington on piano, the four performers regale us with song, dance, and the writings of Coward. Elizabeth Kruse Craig, who is the artistic director at the Pear, co-directed the show with former artistic director Diane Tasca and performs as well. Her imposing elegance is matched by her vocal power and agility. Dan Kapler, often seen on musical theatre stages all across the Bay area, here gets to strut his stuff in a tux, with fine voice and finesse. Kristin Brownstone lends her clear, delicate soprano, and wry comedic skills to the proceedings. Michael Rhone, another musical theatre veteran, seems born in a tux, martini in hand, with a dreamy baritone.

Tasca and Craig have divided up the songs fairly equally among the four performers, who often share a song in a duet or trio or even quartet. They each have solo moments to shine, and are mixed in pairings that show off their various skills and ranges. There's no weak link—all are capable, experienced, and adept, gliding through their performances with aplomb and assurance. In a true rarity, none of the performers are miked. The intimacy of the Pear allows for this departure from the norm, and accentuates the top-notch vocal skills on display.

Craig also designed the attractive set, and Tasca outfitted the the performers in requisite upper-crust attire. Lighting by Megan Souther mostly works, although once in a while seems unmatched to the action. Overall, it's a glittering package that allows the quartet to focus on delivering the music.

The world can be a difficult and trying place sometimes, but inside the Pear Theatre you can enjoy Coward's wit and wisdom in an absolutely lovely entertainment and let the troubles fizzle away.

Oh, Coward!, through July 15, 2018, at Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View CA. Tickets $25.00-$40.00 can be purchased online at or by phone at 650-254-1148

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