St. Vincent Summer Theatre revue celebrates love, Rodgers and Hammerstein
Love in all its phases is the theme that binds “A Grand Night for Singing,” a musical revue that recasts more than 30 Rodgers and Hammerstein songs in a new light. The show takes the songs out of their original context and uses them to illustrate a series of vignettes in which nameless characters experience love in its many forms.
“It's really about the journey of love,” says actress and choreographer Renata Marino. “It's a beautiful show about love and romance.”
The production is the final offering of the season from St. Vincent Summer Theatre in Latrobe. It will run through the first half of August and includes hits such as “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” as well as lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.
“I'm not sure they wrote a bad one,” director Colleen Reilly Rossmiller says. “Each one is a gem.”
The first act explores youthful romance and the search for true love. In the second act, characters get married, become parents and find that the road to lasting love isn't always easy.
“It's funny, it's moving, it's romantic, it's heartwarming,” Rossmiller says. “We've all been in love, and we've all been rejected. It's a universal human thing.”
One of her favorites is “Maria,” originally written to be sung by a group of exasperated nuns in “The Sound of Music,” but in this case sung by a young man lamenting an unrequited love.
The young man is played by Kevin Daniel O'Leary, who appears in some of the more comic scenes of the evening. His character, like the others, isn't given a specific identity but is meant to represent anyone who finds himself in a similar situation. “The show is not about specific characters; it's about emotions,” he says.
O'Leary sings “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” from “Oklahoma!,” “Don't Marry Me,” from “Flower Drum Song” and “Maria.”
“What I really love about this show is that it takes songs from different musicals and takes them out of context and makes them applicable to everyone's lives,” he says. “All of the songs become very relatable to everyone.”
Although the lyrics remain unchanged, audiences shouldn't expect the songs to sound just like they did in the original musicals. “A Grand Night for Singing” gives new life to lesser-known songs and presents classics in a new way. Marino offers the example of Greggory Brandt singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' ” from “Oklahoma!” in a different arrangement.
“You'll know the song, but you've probably never heard it this way,” she says. “It's neat to hear those songs given a new twist.”
Marino designed the show's choreography to help tell its stories. She created dance numbers that would make sense in the storylines. “This is not a dance show. This is really, truly about the music and the characters and their stories,” she says.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.