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By Bridgette M. Redman
For those who love the Golden Age of Broadway musicals, "On Broadway 1956" at Tibbits Opera House will be a treat. The revue pulls together more than 30 songs that could have been heard on Broadway during the year 1956 – whether from a show just opening or nearing the end of its run.
Eight highly skilled and talented young performers sing, dance, act and emote their way through each of the numbers, often changing costumes and pulling out props to wring as much entertainment out of each number.
And these eight performers completely commit to each number and to the style of performing that was gone long before any of them were born. The performers – Richard Baker, James Bleecker, Angelia Golden, Amy Lamberti, Samantha Rey, Douglas P. Robbins, Catherine Skojec and Tyler Whiteman – were able to create the fresh-faced innocence associated with the '50s along with the elegance of Broadway's Golden Era.
Director Trinity Bird managed well the transitions between songs to keep the show moving at a fast pace while musical director Patrick Young made sure the music never stopped playing. Bird kept the staging in motion as well, so that each song had its own story to tell even if there was little other than the year to tie the songs to each other.
The performers, in particular Robbins and Skojec, were skilled in executing Jessica Bracy's choreography, and the dancing was very much on par with the tight, unamplified vocals.
Bird didn't try to recreate the musicals from which the songs were pulled, but he did remain true to the songs themselves. One of the more impressive presentations was "Mack the Knife," with Bleecker beginning a series of tightly controlled solos where every syllable was threatening and the fog and back lighting made it clear that this was a song about a killer.
There were a few selections in the revue that were jarring. Given the current political climate, it was difficult to enjoy "I'm Glad I'm Not a Man," as it described a reality that has long disappeared and failed to be cute or nostalgic. And while Baker did an excellent job leading the troupe in the hijinks of "Jubilation T. Cornpone," the corniness of the number felt out of place surrounded as it was by songs of completely different moods.
As a preview of the Tibbits season to come, the revue holds great promise, for the actors were all strong singers and excellent dancers. They blended well and were seamless as team players. The final number, taken from the operetta "Candide," made the hall vibrate with the strength and volume of the ensemble.
With performances so strong in a revue, it will be a pleasure to see them return to the stage for the rest of the summer.
SHOW DETAILS: "On Broadway 1956" continues at Tibbits Summer Theatre, 14 S. Hanchett St., Coldwater, Thursday-Saturday through July 7. Tickets: $24-$27. For information: 517-278-6029 or www.tibbits.org.
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