Wednesday May 24th 2017

“Rodgers & Hart;A Celebration”

Recommended Light Opera Works, an ensemble that brings us several big musicals each year, also does smaller shows on what they call their “second Stage” located  just a short distance from Fountain Square (downtown) Evanston. This is a smaller venue with a tiny stage and seats that are not near as comfortable as those of Cahn Hall ( where the big shows are done), but what they do bring to the table is the same high quality of voices to make music come to life. Their current production is a celebration of the works of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. These men wrote in the neighborhood of 550 songs, mostyly for stage, but some for movies. Yes, this is the same Richard Rodgers who later partnered with Oscar Hammerstein to create some of  history’s greatest stage musicals, but one can hear the music in his heart even in these earlier numbers. Rodgers & Hart brought us shows like “Babes in Arms”, “The Boys From Syracuse”,”Pal Joey” and ” I married an Angel”. This production, to me is more a musical revue than a play as the story , conceived by Richard Lewine and John Fearnley, is no more than a bit of history with some hokey bits to tie some fo the songs together.

Director Rudy Hogenmiller makes the best of a bad book with somne charming choreography, again, on a tiny stage and by having six very talented performers. Rob Riddle who just appeared in their production of “The Student Prince” has great stage presence and is very  charismatic in his handling of some of the lesser known music in this show. Newcomer, David Geinosky has a great voice and is a remarkable song and dance man. The last of the three gentlemen in this production is Tenor Jon Jandvick who ends up pairing off with latecomer to the production Bethany Thomas ( she came in as a replacement), might I add, the powerful and dynamic Bethany Thomas who owns the stage when she is on it and all eyes are focused on her as she belts out  numbers like “The Lady is A Tramp”! She just keeps getting better! The other two ladies in the cast are no slouches either. Making their Light Opera Works debuts are Tiffany Desmond, a perky bundle of energy and Amy Brophy ( who many have seen at Theatre At The Center in Munster) another solid talent who can do it all.

I really have to say this cast and the musicians behind them ; Linda Slein ( on the piano and conductor) and Joseph Krzysiak on the bass under Hogenmiller’s direction make a weak story a strong musical experience. There are so many memorable tunes-“Falling In Love with Love”,, “This Can’t Be Love”, “Johnny One Note” , “Blue Moon” ( with an interesting story attached),”Bewitched ,Bothered and Bewildered”, ” I could Write a Book” I” I Wish I Were in Love Again”- talk about the great American Songbook! Two  plus hours of solid music, performed by talented people more than make up for semi uncomfortable seats, very little in the way of set, very little in the way of costumes and okay lighting. This is a celebration of the music of these two men, and that they do! And wonderfully!

Rodgers & Hart will continue at Light Opera Works Second Stage located at 1420 N. Maple in Evanston through November 6th with performances as follows:

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $27-$42 with 50% off any student 21 and younger and can be purchased by calling 847-869-6300 or online at www.LightOperaWorks.com

There is plenty of free parking on the street and in their lot and just a few blocks away, lots of affordable dining spots- after all, this is a college town.

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