DANBURY — This year Musicals at Richter has departed from its usual format by having their first production be a two-week run of Some Enchanted Evening, a review of the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, some forty numbers chosen from their most popular shows including Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music, as well as some from shows you’ve probably never seen: State Fair, Allegro, Flower Drum Song, Me and Juliet, and Cinderella.
The good thing about this format is that, with no story line to distract attention, it allows audiences to recognize just how amazingly talented this duo was, and to realize how many of Rodgers’ haunting melodies are engraved in our collective memory, while appreciating what a great lyricist Hammerstein really was.
Furthermore, co-directors Lauren Sherwood and Donald E. Birely have recruited a much larger group of talented principals than would have fit in any one Rodgers and Hammerstein show. A cast of nearly three dozen performers, ranging from third graders to college students to adult professionals, use quick costume changes to transform their characters, from Von Trapp family children, cowboys and US Navy sailors stationed in the South Pacific to New England mill town workers, Siamese courtiers, and so forth.
The songs are not grouped by the shows they came from; rather they simply flow into one another, and in a few cases bits from two shows are combined into a makeshift duet, as when Dianna Waller is singing “When the Children Are Asleep at Night” (from Carousel) while Ted Schwartz is attempting to drown her out with “Don’t Marry Me” ( from Flower Drum Song) while the opening and closing medleys string together some of the most famous songs of all, like the show’s title piece segueing into “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” and the rousing number “Oklahoma,” followed by a reprise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The company is divided into three groups. The Featured Cast is made up of Robert Bria, Monica Enright, Cara Frisina, Luke Garrison and Emily Walsh, who remains on stage the whole time, performing many of the medleys, the comic songs, and some heavy duty solos.
The Youth Ensemble — made up of Dominique and Tyler Altomari, Jack and Thomas Armstrong, Clara Blackwell, Jessica Bowe, Ryan Curley, Haley and Lindsay Cronin, Olicia Cotter, Aurora Joblin, Tori Kuffler, Madison Lemone, Zoee Oliveria, Brian and Rachel Salvador, and Andrea Stock — take on a variety of chorus roles for songs like “I Enjoy Being A Girl” (from Flower Drum Song) and “Do-Re-Mi” (The Sound of Music) and “Getting to Know You” (The King and I).
Finally the Adult Ensemble brings in some truly special talent to perform some powerful solos, including Karin Laine singing “Hello Young Lovers” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Laura Kennedy with two songs from The King and I (“Getting to Know You” and “Whistle a Happy Tune”). Beth Bria Salvador singing “The Gentleman is a Dope” (Allegro) and “No Other Love Have I” (Me and Juliet).
There is also Mary Beth Soucy, who sings “Something Wonderful” and “Climb Every Mountain”; Steven Taliaferro as Jud the hired man from Oklahoma! singing “Lonely Room”; Aran Abilock giving a rousing rendition of “Kansas City,” and Ted Schwartz singing duets with Dianna Waller.
In short, you wouldn’t go to this for the story, but the more you recognize from Rodgers and Hammerstein, the bigger kick you will get from spending an evening with them under the stars at Richter, enjoying so many rich clear voices singing their hearts out.
(The show is heading into its final weekend, with performances Thursday through Saturday, June 27-29, at 8:30 pm.
Musicals at Richter performances are on the back lawn of Richter Arts Center, 100 Aunt Hack Road. Call 203-748-6873 or visit MusicalsAtRichter.org for tickets and additional information.)