The musical revue is a strange and quirky hybrid. Many that pay tribute to celebrated composers and lyricists, such as Lyric Theatre's “Some Enchanted Evening,” offer dozens of certifiable hits, but usually do so without any kind of supporting narrative. Others tend to devise a sketchy story on which to hang the familiar tunes. Neither is a fail-safe method that guarantees success.
As its title suggests, “Some Enchanted Evening” honors the 17-year partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, one of the most productive and lucrative of the 20th century. They produced five unqualified hit musicals, but even their flops contained a few musical gems.
Director Ashley Wells assembled a cast of five singers for this expansive survey, one that featured more than 50 musical numbers. If that many songs were performed in their entirety, this would have been a three-hour production. Instead, this musical sampler zips by in 90 minutes.
Created by Jeffrey B. Moss 30 years ago, “Some Enchanted Evening” offers a constant reminder of Rodgers and Hammerstein's incredible musical talents. Its construction, however, hasn't aged well. No sooner do we hear a familiar musical hook or a snippet of a lyric than Moss yanks us into another melody, more often than not from another show.
The speed at which these musical numbers fly by rarely allows the performers to create a mood, much less a sense of character. Is that even a necessary component of a successful revue? It depends on your perspective.
Those who know the shows in which these songs originated may be disappointed by the lack of characterization. One simply can't divorce “Maria” from the scene in which the nuns prattle about their postulant's flightiness. Here, a tenor uses it to contemplate which of two girls he prefers.
Another recasts the Liesl/Rolf duet “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” for two women, an approach that fails to capture the saccharine charms of the original. And yet, such concerns will scarcely matter to those whose familiarity with these tunes isn't connected to the shows that produced them. After all, countless popular singers covered these songs during radio's heyday.
This nostalgic trip back through time is peppered with frequent attempts at humor, a few of which are cleverly executed. A character named Will can't accomplish what “I Whistle a Happy Tune” proposes, while Billy and Will compete for Anna's love in “A Fellow Needs a Girl,” with both guys ending up with their heads in her lap.
At other times, the humor tends to be more sophomoric than inspired. The two guys come out dressed in drag to sing the “Stepsisters Lament” from “Cinderella,” but neither is confident in this ludicrous situation. (Yes, I know many productions cast men to play these insipid roles).
Fortunately, the five singers — Jamie Buxton, Dallas Lish, Heather Geery, Ethan Spell and Melissa Griffith — all possess attractive voices that generally put across Rodgers and Hammerstein's memorable tunes with confidence, if not always sufficient personality.
Among the highlights are Lish's “Lonely Room,” Buxton's “In My Own Little Corner,” Geery's “Love, Look Away,” Spell's “Younger Than Springtime” and Griffith's “It Might As Well Be Spring.” Pianists Brian Hamilton and Mary Brozina provide accomplished accompaniments throughout.
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Lyric staff has invited performers from its distinguished past to share some anecdotes and a musical number from a show in which they appeared. At this performance, Jane Hall and Charlotte Franklin humorously baited each other in “Bosom Buddies.”
If “Some Enchanted Evening” tends to leave audiences breathless with its frequent, often abrupt segues and musical delights that are too often just hinted at, it leaves no doubt in people's minds about how much Rodgers and Hammerstein enriched the musical theater landscape.
— Rick Rogers