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CLO Cabaret's latest is one 'Grand Night'

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:56 p.m.
Bre Pursell, Kristiann Menotiades and Katie Oxman in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's 'A Grand Night for Singing.'
Credit: CLO Cabaret
Bre Pursell, Kristiann Menotiades and Katie Oxman in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's 'A Grand Night for Singing.' Credit: CLO Cabaret

“A Lovely Night,” “Something Wonderful” and “Some Enchanted Evening” aren't just part of the playlist for the latest CLO Cabaret show.

They're also fitting descriptions of “A Grand Night for Singing,” a tuneful 90-minute journey through the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook.

Walter Bobbie conceived the show nearly 20 years ago for Roundabout Theatre Company in Manhattan.

It hasn't aged a bit since 1993, partially because it does nothing more than showcase Oscar Hammerstein II's lovely, often intelligent lyrics and Richard Rodgers' silky music.

Many of the selections are expected or even fondly anticipated — “Hello, Young Lovers” from “The King and I” or “My Little Girl” and “When the Children Are Asleep” from “Carousel.”

To their credit, the cast — Paul-Jordan Jansen, Kristiann Menotiades, Katie Oxman, Bre Pursell and John Wascavage — expressively deliver the lyrics to those golden oldies with thoughtful renditions that make the familiar lyrics feel fresh and new.

There are others that you may actually be hearing for the first time, such as “All at Once You Love Her” from the 1955 musical “Pipe Dream” or “I Know It Can Happen Again” from the 1947 musical “Allegro.”

With seven previous CLO Cabaret shows already on her resume, Menotiades is arguably the show's veteran performer, though only by a few years. She knows how to make an amicable connection with the audience whether she's singing a romantic song such as “Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful” or doing the comedic “Stepsisters Lament” from “Cinderella” with Pursell.

Pursell, a 2011 graduate of Point Park University, displays her charming, comedic talents in “I Can't Say No” and as part of a female trio in “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out (of My Hair).” She also does a nice job with the more serious “If I Loved You.”

Oxman, who's still pursuing her bachelor of arts in musical theater at Point Park University, also has a delightful comedic streak that she uses nicely as part of that hair-washing trio and in a very funny performance of “It's Me.”

Fresh from four years in the musical-theater program at Penn State University, Jansen impresses with a rich, deep voice and solidly satisfying performances that include “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'.”

Some may recall Wascavage from his role as Candide in the Quantum Theatre production of the musical of the same name. The Point Park University graduate brings that same boyish charm and good looks to a flirtatious rendition of “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.”

For this show, the CLO Cabaret stage has been moved so that it radiates out from a corner. That gives the performers a broad expanse to move physically as well as emotionally from one song to another and engage in a few simple dance steps under the guidance of director Jack Allison and choreographer Keisha Lalama.

Costume designer Michael Montgomery provides three sets of costumes created with personal details for each performer, though some fit better than others.

Tony Ferrieri's set design is awkward and problematic. Its curves and worn wooden flooring hint at a long-discarded, broken-down carousel. It's a weird location for a show filled with songs that are still as shiny and bright as when they first penned. Calf-high slanted posts that rise from the floor look downright dangerous. Furthermore, the lack of curtained wings forces actors to exit and enter through the audience, which can be distracting when they're waiting for someone to finish before their entrance.

Lighting designer Andrew David Ostrowski provides a more upbeat atmosphere with strings of colored and white lights overhead.

Objections aside, this is a show that relies not on spoken dialogue — there is none — or scenery.

It's up to the five young, talented performers who sing all or part of 39 timeless tunes about love. In doing so, the cast sparkles as brightly as the star drop on the back wall.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

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