Theo Ubique enchants St. Charles audience with Rodgers & Hammerstein revue
There's just one problem with Theo Ubique's effervescent remount of last year's Chicago production of "Some Enchanted Evening," which opened Saturday at St. Charles' Pheasant Run Resort.
It's too appealing. In fact, it's so irresistible, some audience members couldn't contain their enthusiasm, which burst forth much like a tune in a Broadway musical.
"Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein"
★ ★ ★ ½
Location: Theo Ubique at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6342 or foxvalleyrep.org
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through July 22. Also 2 p.m. June 28 and July 19
Running time: About two hours, with intermission
Tickets: $32, $42; dinner theater packages available from $52
Parking: Free lot adjacent to the theater
Rating: For all ages
The credit rests as much with director Fred Anzevino and his talented cast (which is different from the 2011 production), as it does with the classic Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein songs that comprise this charming revue. Either way, the revival — which kicks off Fox Valley Repertory's second annual summer theater festival — has captured the hearts of FVR theatergoers. Frankly it's hard not to get carried away by Broadway favorites like "People Will Say We're in Love," "Shall We Dance," and "This Nearly Was Mine," several of which are superbly re-imagined in what is the very definition of a jukebox musical.
But there's a better way to express one's appreciation than by singing along with the actors, even if you do it sotto voce.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands that. Therein lies the problem, at least for those of us who prefer listening to the fine voices of classically trained singers, without the accompaniment of warbling enthusiasts in the audience, who have somehow mistaken the Pheasant Run Theater for their living rooms.
Fortunately, Anzevino and company overcome the challenge, delivering an entertaining, well-sung revival that puts a new spin on familiar numbers, which — even out of context — speak to each other in a rather meaningful way.
A kind of show-within-a-show, "Some Enchanted Evening" unfolds on Adam Veness' simple but elegant set dominated by a baby grand piano. It opens backstage where singer/actors Chadley Ballantyne, Amanda Batcher, Danielle Floyd, Amanda Hartley, Matt McNabb and accompanist Elizabeth Doran are preparing for a performance. Since the show is basically a celebration of the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon, there's no real plot beyond some romantic relationships (subtly suggested by Anzevino), consisting of a flirtation between Floyd and McNabb, a budding romance between Batcher and Ballantyne and perhaps a soured affair involving Ballantyne and Hartley, who's affecting as a wounded woman struggling to maintain her dignity.
Along with duets and trios (including a terrific testament to female resolve featuring Batcher, Hartley and Floyd singing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair"), the show allows each singer several spotlight moments. That includes pianist Doran who delivers a winning — and entirely relevant — version of "In My Own Little Corner" from "Cinderella."
Hartley, whose performance of "The Gentleman is a Dope" from "Allegro" is as dry as a martini, brings a wistful, torch song maturity to "Hello, Young Lovers." The spitfire Floyd is spot-on as a sassy girl who can't say no and the ever-endearing cockeyed optimist, while Batcher and Ballantyne combine their clarion voices for a lovely version of "If I Loved You." Also deserving mention are McNabb's wonderfully unadorned "Edelweiss" and an unexpected but enjoyable version of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" which examines the free spirit from a man's point of view.
The vocal arrangements are stunning, particularly during the greatest hits medleys, which is where this quintet really soars. That's especially true of the penultimate montage which is the musical equivalent to the final burst of fireworks on the Fourth of July. It is well worth hearing.
So keep that in mind, Rodgers and Hammerstein enthusiasts. Turn off your cellphones, unwrap your candy, button your lips and enjoy.
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