There were so many enriched Broadway shows in the 1940s that creator/writer/director/host Scott Siegel had a gold mine from which to choose—“Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Brigadoon” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” to name some stalwarts integrated into the latest survey last night (March 27) in the popular Broadway by the Year series at The Town Hall.
There was not only the pleasure of hearing numbers from such hits, but the evening turned out to be an occasion for discovery, at least for me. I had not been sufficiently aware of the extraordinary talent of Lesli Margherita, who was making her Broadway by the Year debut. She proved to be dynamite. Her “I Hate Men” from “Kiss Me, Kate” was a rousing, hilarious gem, and her “Come Rain or Come Shine” from “St. Louis Woman” further revealed her vocal power. She also displayed a romantic side in her duet with Ben Davis in “So in Love” from “Kiss Me Kate.” Margherita dominated the stage with fresh, polished exuberance.
Siegel is always on the lookout for something different, and he sure came up with a surprise. Who would have thought that “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific” would be served us via a whistler? Yet there he was, Steve “The Whistler” Herbst beautifully whistling the song with perfect pitch, dramatic impact and high octave range.
There was another surprise in the highlighting of a superb dance team, Heather Ghering and Lou Brockman, who exhibited high style to “I Could Write a Book” from “Pal Joey.” Ghering, a knockout in her fuchsia gown, flashed her terrific leg extension, while Brockman skillfully led her in a variety of movements. They returned in the second act, with Ghering dressed this time in a silvery mini, as they performed while Daniel Reichard sang “Old Devil Moon” from “Finian’s Rainbow.”
Dance played an especially important role in the show, with Kendrick Jones, a tapping favorite in the series, showed his stuff as Kea Blackhurst sang “Taking a Chance on Love” from “Cabin in the Sky,” and also soloing in “Easy Does It” from “The Little Dog Laughed.”
The heart and soul of the show resided, of course, in the quality of the singing. Blackhurst also showed her skills with “That’s Him” from “One Touch of Venus,” “I’ve Still Got My Health” from “Panama Hattie” and with her Merman-like delivery of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” leading the company in the finale.
Karen Ziemba, ever a hit, contributed a delicate “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” from “Finiain’s Rainbow,” a lively “I Got the Sun in the Mornin’” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” the lilting “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from “Pal Joey” and “Right as Rain” from “Bloomer Girl.”
Ben Davis has an especially fine voice and dramatic skill, as demonstrated appealingly with his opening number “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from the groundbreaking “Oklahoma!” and in his aforementioned duet with Lesli Margherita. Daniel Reichard enjoys injecting fun into his numbers where appropriate, as with his “A Cockeyed Optimist” from “South Pacific.”
Important credits in putting the show together include Ross Patterson for music direction, a task he has performed through all 17 years of the series, as well as for playing piano and conducting, with Randy Landau on bass and Jared Schonig on drums. Rick Hinkson was assistant director and assistant stage manager, with Joe Burke and Holly Cruz as production assistants. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed March 28, 2017.