Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Murder for Two
As someone who has spent a great deal of his life in and around musical theater, all kinds and eras, and with a good amount of historical knowledge of same, I find that the author's idea of what constitutes a flop and mine can be wildly differing. Example: George M Cohan's first Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones opened to mixed reviews, played about 50 performances at a time when a run of 100 performances certified a bonafide hit, went out on tour for a year, then returned to Broadway for two different runs. That doesn't feel like a flop to me. But the music speaks for itself in this short evening of some of the best Broadway has ever offered.
Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things" serves as an opening number, introducing our cast and the concept. The first extended sequence is a tribute to George M. Cohan consisting of "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Mary's a Grand Old Name," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and "You're a Grand Old Flag." Early Irving Berlin comes next, with "Play a Simple Melody" and "I Love a Piano" followed by "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody." A selection of songs from George and Ira Gershwin, and DuBose Heyward's Porgy and Bess ("It Ain't Necessarily So," "My Man's Gone Now," Summertime" and "I Got Plenty of Nothing") is the other major grouping in this half. Harold Arlen and Ted Kohler's "Get Happy," written for the 1930 show Nine-Fifteen Revue, closes the act.
Act two concentrates on individual songs. Included are such disparate songs as "As Time Goes By," "Mack the Knife" (or "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer," since we get a chorus in German), "All the Things You Are," Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and "Strike Up the Band" coupled with "Great Day" as our finale.
Our cast of ten is a mixture of Players staples (Bill Sarazan, Susan Cole, Paige Galdieri), newcomers, either to the area or this company (Randall Hall, Madison Spahn, Terry Ross), and a few that are neither of those (Bronson Byerley, Daniel Espinal, Eliza Morehouse, Riselle Bain). Voices are not always perfectly used, but there are some memorable performances. These include Daniel crooning "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," Madison combining "My Man's Gone Now" (first half only), and "Summertime," both in the original keys, Paige with "Ten Cents a Dance" channeling Ruth Etting, Eliza singing a stunning, simply rendered "All the Things You Are," and Riselle being the total seductress for "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."
Teresa O'Connell is the excellent music director, at the piano.
Alyssa Goudy and Jeffery Kin direct on basically a bare stage; a bit of music manuscript decorates the rear, and the shiny piano sits center stage, courtesy of William Mark. Tim Beltley dresses everyone in 1930s evening attire, making for a glamorous feel. Lighting design is by Ethan Vail.
Recently, in a review of another production, I wrote about being totally surrounded by the music I love, available to me anytime. Almost all of the music featured in this production would come under that category. This kind of evening is designed more for an audience of folks who don't walk around singing the verse to "All the Things You Are" to themselves on most Thursdays, occasionally on the odd Monday, which is me. Many in the Sarasota audience will enjoy this evening of Tops from Flops a lot.
Tops from Flops, through July 22, 2018, at The Players Centre for the Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.