The appeal of the Broadway musical never seems to fade. Audiences continue to flock to on-stage extravaganzas like Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King, and the movie musical even seems to be making a bit of a comeback, as evidenced by the recent success of Dreamgirls and Hairspray. In keeping with this trend, Harvest Rain Theatre Company plays homage to the wonderful world of the musical in their latest show The Best of Broadway and Beyond.
The ensemble cast of ten entertains the audience with a mix of favourites, old and new, and their fine singing is complemented in various numbers by the equally impressive Velocity Dancers.
The show’s repertoire ranges from classic Broadway to recent film musicals, and covers many points in between. The evening begins with a Broadway medley overture performed by the orchestra, which is quickly followed by an entire cast performance of “Putting it Together” from Sunday in the Park with George and an enthusiastic rendition of “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”, from Guys and Dolls.
Tim O’Connor and his fellow cast members introduce each song, and explain its origin and place in the show. They also have a bit of fun at each other’s expense: the banter they exchange between songs is fun, if sometimes a bit corny, but mostly they let the music do the talking. The tone of the performance varies throughout, from serious and emotional to light-hearted and funny. For example, there is a stirring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by the entire cast, and a tongue-in-cheek version of “My Favourite Things”, performed by the male members of the ensemble. And there are a number of stand-out numbers: Luke Kennedy’s version of “Heaven on their Minds” was simply wonderful, as was Samantha Turk’s performance of “Big, Blonde and Beautiful”, and Luke Kennedy and Angela Cornford’s “All I ask of You”.
I was also pleased to hear some of my own favourites. Naomi Price belted out a superb version of “Tell Me on a Sunday”, and the entire cast performed “Rhythm of Life” and “We Go Together” with gusto. It was also good to hear “Come What May” from Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge. But the show also includes songs that some in the audience, including myself, are probably less familiar with. Wade Colbran Thomas and Jordan Reid give a witty performance of “Agony”, from the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, a song where the princes from Cinderella and Rapunzel get to tell their side of the story.
The comedy continues after the interval with the whole cast, including the Velocity Dancers, performing “I Hope I Get It” in a variety of mismatched aerobics outfits, followed by a quirky version of “Fame”, sung by Alex Feifers and Wade Colbran Thomas. Apart from these numbers, the singers’ costumes are generally classic formal gear: black suits for the guys and frocks for the girls in a variety of bright colours.
At the show’s conclusion the enthusiastic audience demanded an encore, and the cast obliged with a repeat performance of “Time Warp” and the show’s final number “You Can’t Stop the Beat”.
This is the first Harvest Rain performance I have seen, and I was impressed both by the professionalism and the quality of the performance. The audience, and the cast, all had a great time. For lovers of musicals, it was certainly a good night’s entertainment.
Choreographer: Callum Mansfield
Music Director: Dale Lingwood
Vocal Director: Maitlohn Drew
Playing until Saturday 20 October 2007: Wednesday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday matinees 2pm.
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes, including a 20-minute interval.