Published On: Thu, Jan 24th, 2019

Review: ‘Hits of Broadway’ at Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville

By John Dwyer

“Hits of Broadway,” a revue based on a wide variety of Broadway songs, offers a deep bench of wonderful melodies.

Though not in a consistent chronological order, the show culminates in the latest Tony Award Best Musical winners. When you don’t have the through line of a plot, each song becomes its own world, inhabited solely by the performers involved.

The strength of Music Mountain Theatre is its talent, energy and heart. With their own school and a junior program, it is grooming young people for the arts. This particular cast includes the juniors, some new performers from the community and some of the tried and true performers from the resident company. With a wide swath of experience, some efforts are better than others. But all are heartfelt and putting it out there for you.

Here are some of the exceptional performances among the 39 songs and 25 performers:

Jenna Parilla and Deborah Heagen got the audience smiling with their version “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” from “Annie Get Your Gun.” Younger performers from the junior program did a charming Rodgers and Hammerstein medley of “People Will Say We’re in Love” (Noah Conk and Bella DePaola), “I Have Dreamed” (Aidan Rice and Olivia Frankenbach) and “Ten Minutes Ago” (Ethan Rosen and Riley Kay Bultemeier).

Handsome leading man David Tapp’s rich baritone mesmerized in “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot.” Shelly Tapp’s coloratura soprano delighted the audience with “Tonight” from “West Side Story.” Emily Cooper sang a lovely version of “Losing My Mind” from “Follies.” Dependably wonderful Jaimes Geddes and Bella DePaola were all Fosse jazz hands for “Chicago’s” “Hot Honey Rag, “ while Jeff Stephens shuffle-ball chained with a phalanx of beautiful tap dancers in “Everything Old is New Again” from “The Boy from Oz.”

Jaime Geddes scored again with Jenna Parrilla, singing the ultimate duet from the musical “Side Show,” “Who Will Love Me as I Am.” Donald Hallcom gave a rousing version of “Strike Up the Band” from the Gershwin musical of the same name. Jenna Parilla gave a moving interpretation of “Omar Sharif” from the current Broadway musical “The Band’s Visit,” which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2018.

But one of the best and most surprising moments came from Stuart Singer. He is the oldest member of the cast, and brings a depth of experience to Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” He not only nailed the song, but also brought to it a level of yearning and pathos. It was moving and truly beautiful. The long audience applause was indicative of how duly appreciative of his talent they were.

Another surprising moment came during the duet “Why Am I Me?” from “Shenandoah” with Emmie Herman and Drew Freeman. The harmony, delivery, and build in the song were so perfect that, after the show, I went and heard the original Broadway version. A bit of a miracle: Emmie and Drew were better. Freeman came back and wowed again with more difficult material with “Ring of Keys” from “Fun Home.”

And the best moment in the show for me came from Kasey Ivan, who heretofore I was not familiar with. Where has he been hiding? His “Dust and Ashes” was lyrical and moving and is not the easiest piece to sing and act. It is from “Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” and was sung by Josh Groban on Broadway. It requires a very good singer, with nuanced phrasing and acting. Ivan was on the money. He seems very relaxed on stage, and that is a huge plus. It affords him to be in the moment and responsive. He was also excellent with Geddes in “It Only Takes a Moment” from “Hello, Dolly!”

I want to go back just to see the last three again. They were that good.

So much good music. As Gershwin would say, “Who could ask for anything more?”

“Hits of Broadway” continues at Music Mountain Theatre through Sunday, Jan. 27, and tickets can be purchased online.

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