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Theater Review

Nostalgic 'Night for Singing' Exudes Warmth

June 06, 2000|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Musical revues can be a mixed blessing. If one is familiar with the original musicals from which the revue tunes have been derived, it's easier to plug the individual numbers into the proper thematic context. Even then, the show can seem generic, a barrage of pretty music without a solid emotional core.

"A Grand Night for Singing" at the La Mirada Theatre, which showcases the works of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is a barrage of very pretty music indeed. That is occasionally a deficit. The densely witty divertissements of, say, Stephen Sondheim or Noel Coward, work well in musical revues. Essentially flip, the tunes stand alone, acid-etched exercises in sheer style.

With Rodgers and Hammerstein, what you hear is what you get--namely, a feast of sentiment, heavy on the romance, with a side of corn. However, if you don't know the plot points leading up to "We Kiss in a Shadow," the end result can seem tepid. And, although Michael Gibson and Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations are jazzy updates, as are Fred Wells' musical arrangements, the show, as conceived by Walter Bobbie, has an unfortunately episodic quality.

Those reservations aside, this is warm and fuzzy stuff that you can fall back into for a good nostalgic wallow.

The crack ensemble includes Tom McCoy, who, along with his wife, Cathy Rigby, is the artistic head of the La Mirada Theater. Rigby is a familiar headliner at the theater, but this is McCoy's debut performance at the facility, and he proves an accomplished trouper in his own right as he eases through vintage ballads like "I Have Dreamed"--the penultimate number in the show. He's no slouch at the novelty tunes, either. When McCoy croons "101 pounds of fun," the opening lyric from "Honey Bun," it's an effective insider's joke--an amusing reminder that his petite missus probably wouldn't break 100 pounds in an overcoat and mukluks.

McCoy's equally assured fellow performers include William Akey, Ruth Gottschall, Jennifer Shelton and Tami Tappan, a seamless team that gets ample opportunity to strut their individual stuff in solos. Gottschall quietly goes about her business as all-around utility woman and comic relief, then floors you with her splendid rendition of "Something Wonderful"--the production's standout tune.

Alyson Reed, who directed and choreographed the simple dance sequences, keeps the action smooth and elegant, while musical director and conductor Scott Harlan heads the lively live combo, which keeps this musical humming along, just like the audience.

*

* "A Grand Night for Singing," La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; June 10 and 17, 2:30 and 8 p.m.; June 11 and 18, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Ends June 18. $34. (562) 944-9801. Running time: 2 hours.

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