The musical partnership of Rodgers & Hammerstein is my go to show-tunes trivia answer. They are the creators of some of America’s most popular musicals. But before Oscar was ever on the scene, Richard had a long-term relationship with Larry. Light Opera Works presents RODGERS & HART: A CELEBRATION. Composer Richard Rodgers teamed up with lyricist Lorenz Hart from 1919 to 1943. The duo is credited with over 550 songs. “My Funny Valentine” and “Isn’t It Romantic” are two of the timeless classics produced by the collaboration. Others, like “Jupiter Forbid” and “A Great Big Town (Chicago)” aren’t as well known but illustrate the frothy side of the musical pair. There are 50+ songs featured in this cabaret revue. RODGERS & HART: A CELEBRATION is a pleasurable tribute to the 25 year bro-mance.
Under the direction and choreography of Rudy Hogenmiller, this cast is effervescent! As a group, the harmony is solid pleasure. The dancing is the old fashion variety from stage and ballroom. The combination reminds me of a line from a film in that era “lots of schmaltz and plenty of heart.” Regularly, the six couple up into boy-girl pairings for love songs. The shtick is sweet and sometimes sassy depending on the song. There is a strong comedy vibe throughout the show. The playfulness is especially noted in the second act during a travel montage of songs. The guys, David Geinosky, Jon Landvick and Rob Riddle, have a few male bonding songs that particularly stand-out for me. I have a thing for dashing men in tuxes with perfect crooning capabilities.
Costume Designer Darcy Elora Hofer has worked her magic on the ladies as well. Amy Brophy, Tiffany Desmond and Bethany Thomas are dripping in rhinestones and elegant black dresses. With the entire ensemble, Hogenmiller showcases everyone with moments of solo attention. Very early in the show, Thomas belts out a beautiful “Falling in Love with Love” and than later a powerhouse version of “Lady is a Tramp.” Although Brophy and Desmond also have wonderful singing voices, Brophy is most memorable for her comedic antics. Her buffoonery is Fanny Brice worthy.
RODGERS & HART: A CELEBRATION is a step back in time. In between songs, the ensemble give the backstory on Rodgers’ perfectionism and Hart’s alcoholism. The narration fits nicely into the variety show format. The show concludes with the break-up that paired Richard with Oscar for “Oklahoma” blockbuster success. Even having rejected being a part of the project, Larry cheered on the historic opening. After experiencing this show, I’m “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” that I wasn’t more aware of Lorenz Hart’s contribution to music. RODGERS & HART: A CELEBRATION is a musical appreciation opportunity to be heard.
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission.
At Light Opera Works Second Stage, 1420 Maple Avenue, Evanston
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Concept by Richard Lewine and John Fearnley
Directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 6th