Monday, February 1, 2016

There’s No Business Like Show Business—Chehalem Cultural Center—Newberg, OR

Thanks for the Memories

This musical revue, celebrating the golden age of Broadway, is created and directed by Deanna Maio.  It is playing at their space in the black box theatre, 415 E. Sheridan St. in Newberg, though February 12th.  For more information, go to their site at www.chehalemplayersrep.com or call 971-264-9409.

The 40’s through the 50’s were indeed the heyday of musical theatre.  They ruled the stages of the Big Apple.  Gone are those days, though, replaced by occasional, hit-and-miss musicals that have some merit, but the central heart of this bygone time, seems to be missing, sparked every year by one or more revivals of these plays, which still pull in the audiences, wanting to be transported back to the South Pacific during WWII or Oklahoma of the old west.

But my own personal connection to these was that elusive Love that was out there, somewhere, just around the corner.  Songs like, Some Enchanted Evening, where you’ll recognize your true love even “across a crowded room.”  (My friend, Deone, told me that was exactly the way it was when meeting her true love, her husband.) Or singing, “Goodnight, My Someone…,” to that imaginary person that you know is still out there and will complete you.  Ah, Romance…Sweet Mystery of Life…!

My own brush with musicals is fleeting, having played Capt. Von Trapp in “Sound of Music,” directed “Oliver,” and produced “A Chorus Line” and “West Side Story,” among others.  But this production in a small space, formal, black attire and no set, does captivate one in a very special way.  For one, the chorus of eight voices is extraordinary (actually too big for the space); secondly, the simplicity of presentation invites the listener to concentrate on the beauty in the songs; and lastly, the choice of material gives a good retrospective of the era.

The numbers are scattered across the years concentrating on Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, Kiss Me Kate, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, and The Music Man (two of those –B/F-- are among my three favorites and the third would be Cabaret).  As mentioned, there are some outstanding voices.  Ashley Moore has an operatic voice and is a belter, as well (another Merman?).  Sarah Thornton is a soprano and has the look and voice to easily play any of these leading young ladies in the musicals mentioned.  And John Knowles, not only has the voice for the more mature parts, but does some animated bits throughout that lend to the authenticity of the songs.

But major kudos are reserved for the director and songstress, Deanna Maio, as she is a marvel!  It would seem like an impossible task to be able to choose specific materials from the vast wealth of selections, decide on how they are to be edited and who to sing them, direct the cast and be a major player in it, too.  Wow, she’s got my respect.  She is not only a talented singer but has great stage presence and an attractive lady, as well, able to play either character parts or leading ladies (my choice is that she would be perfect as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl”—any theatres listening out there?!).

The rest of the cast is also quite amazing—Pamela Woodrow, Rebecca Raccanelli, Jeremy Marcott and Matt Simek.  I know it’s a trek to go there but I think you will be rewarded by the talent involved, as well as a trip down memory lane.  I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.