"The Music of Lerner & Loewe” directed
Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford
“The Music of Lerner & Loewe,” the current revue on stage at Stamford Theatre Works, is best listened to, rather than watched. It is what we hear, and not what we see, that turns the evening into entertainment.
For starters, there are the glorious tunes of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederic “Fritz” Loewe, taken randomly from “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” “Brigadoon,” “Paint Your Wagon,” and “Gigi.” Who can resist the collaborative efforts of this famed song-writing team? Musical director David Bishop and director/choreographer Shawn Churchman have culled such pieces as “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” “I Talk to the Trees,” and “Almost Like Being in Love.” But it would be hard to falter, whatever Lerner/Loewe pieces they would have chosen.
Secondly, the cast of five (Cristin Boyle, Dan Callaway, Dan Domenech, Tim Howard, and Rebecca Spencer) serve the music well, each with his or her particular strength. All have strong voices, but Callaway’s best-trained voice stands out, particularly when he tackles a haunting piece like “Come to Me, Bend to Me” from “Brigadoon.” Tim Howard has an excellent sense of phrasing and timing, clearly evidenced in “I’m an Ordinary Man” (“My Fair Lady”) and “I Remember it Well” (“Gigi”).
And the musicians (Jay Mack, drums; Marina Kitaychik, violin; Dan Shevlin, cello, and Bishop on the piano) are nicely tucked away, under a book shelf, right in the center of things, where they give good support to the singers.
Unfortunately, however, Bishop and Churchman (who jointly conceived and created the show) chose to dress it up with text and movement. Reading bits of copy from books is supposed to tell us something about the Lerner and Loewe partnership and productivity. But it has no chronological order and often comes across in mumbled inarticulate phrases.
The show is further weakened by the awkward movements and exaggerated gestures of the performers--particularly Boyle and Spencer, whose appearances are not helped by Elaine B. Govia’s unfortunate costumes.
In fact, those soaring moments come when the performers get away from their busy work, settle down, and focus on their singing. It is just such a moment when Rebecca Spencer and Tim Howard quietly sing “I Remember It Well.”
The five singers, in fact, would have done far better to sit on five stools and let the music carry the day. Clearly, less would have been more.
-- Irene Backalenick
June 10, 2005