By Dale King
Some Enchanted Evening is a celebration honoring one of the most noted and notable duos in the history of the American musical — Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Delray Beach Playhouse has dusted off the show conceived 37 years ago by Jeffrey Moss. The assortment of tunes from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s best shows – and a few of their duds – was first performed at The St. Rhos Hotel in New York in January 1983.
The two men and four ladies in the cast bring commendable credentials to this three-weekend production that closes Sunday. All have praiseworthy voices and their harmonies are well-crafted.
The show, however, is hampered by a couple of striking omissions. For one thing, the stage is virtually bare. There’s a 6-foot wooden ladder in the middle, a trunk to the left and something else to the right that adds nothing to production values.
And the performers basically sing, either individually, in pairs or trios or as a group of six. Little attention is given to movement. No dance steps, which would have perked up the title song, “Some Enchanted Evening.” No high-stepping sailors extolling the fairer sex in “Nothing Like a Dame.” No hoofing and stomping to flesh out the character of Ado Annie in “I Cain’t Say No.”
In truth, there is some level of interplay. One of the ladies does step down from the stage to sing to the audience. Another cast member uses a couple of feathers to enhance her performance. Chris Cimonelli, a vocalist with extensive choral experience, adds a refreshing element of acting to his version of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” from The Sound of Music.
Some Enchanted Evening was actually created with a production guideline for the cast. Act I occurs “backstage,” where the songs are sung as personal interplay and then “on stage,” in Act II, where the songs are “performed” for the audience. Each singer brings his or her own style and personality to the songs and to the situations in which they are set. But it doesn’t appear the show’s creators meant to strip away all ancillary accoutrements.
Actually, DBP does add a visual element. It has culled slides of original handbills for the R&H shows and presents them on a screen at the rear of the stage – but only during Act I. In Act II, the screen is lit, but image-free.
It is a delight for the audience to see some of the posters from shows like Oklahoma, State Fair, South Pacific and Carousel. A visual array in Act II would have been a nice touch.
As director Randolph DelLago notes at the start of the show, not all of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s shows were hits. Some, like Allegro and Pipe Dream, didn’t quite hit the mark.
A portion of Act II seems committed to tunes from the lesser-known productions, but viewers who don’t know the songs can’t associate them with any specific show.
The song list should really concentrate on the best of R&H. We can imagine Bernie Gonzalez and Salonia riding in a surrey with the fringe on top. We can revel in the full cast vocalizing “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” or “Hello, Young Lovers.”
Gonzalez and Salonia return later to offer a haunting, mellow version of “If I Loved You” that touches the gallery’s emotions.
Nicole Hulett and Marissa Kessler offer a bouncy version of “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” Gonzalez’s presentation of “Soliloquy” mixes talk and song into an intriguing story. Salonia’s performance of “Shall We Dance?” raises images of The King and I.
The cast shows its best capabilities in the harmonies they bring to many songs. “People Will Say We’re in Love” gets a special touch when the cast combine their voices. Salonia steps out courageously to sing, “The Gentleman Is a Dope,” a tune from the ill-fated Allegro.
The closing medley is excellent, concluding with a vibrant version of “Oklahoma.” It holds its own, but might have gotten a nudge of oomph with the addition of a slide behind them showing a barn or cornfield.
Some Enchanted Evening’s cast gets musical backing from two of the best keyboardists in the business. Pianist Paul Reekie provides the background melodies in Act I, and he’s joined by Ryan Crout on a second piano during Act II. Jesse Veliz is musical director.
The show runs just over 90 minutes and there is one intermission.
Some Enchanted Evening will be presented through Sunday at the Delray Beach Playhouse, 950 NW 9th St. (Lake Shore Drive), Delray Beach. All tickets are $35 and may be purchased online at www.delraybeachplayhouse or by calling 561-272-1281.