By Bob Evans
“Que Sera, Sera?” what will be will be, and the answer screams “SUCCESS!” at Quality Hill’s newest production Billboard Blockbusters, not playing at the Q through May 20, with a non-stop caravan of well-known songs that rose to the top of the charts from the 1940s-1970s.
The show, as J. Kent Barnhart explains, features music that made history as America’s favorites by sheet music sales, bandleader submissions, radio play, record/tapes/DVD sales, and now, even downloads. For this piece, Barnhart even strayed (but only briefly) across the pond to grab a few British ditties that topped the charts in America. (How could you do a Billboard Top Hist show without including The Beatles and Petula Clark?)
QHP’s show contains so many blockbuster hits that the show will remain one of the biggest successes in the last five years. How could you miss with songs by Louis Prima, Glenn Miller’s Orchestra, Irving Berlin and from artists like Gene Krupa, Jo Stafford, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Patti Page, Tony Bennett, Bill Hayley and the Comets, Perry Como, Elvis Presley, Debbie Reynolds, The Beatles, Petula Clark, Mamas & the Papas, The Four Seasons, Bobby Gentry, Simon and Garfunkel, The Carpenters, and Burt Bacharach? Impressed? Wait till you hear them performed!
Watching the audience before, during, and then listening to them as they exited magnifies the excitement of the show they just watched. Pre-show, I could hear people talking about the songs listed in the program. During the show, I saw rhythmic head nodding and lyrics being silently sung. Applause greeted performers even before final note on many songs. Intermission brought a lot of chatter about how great the songs were and the melodies anticipated in Act II. Post-show exiting saw a plethora of smiles and many comments on how enjoyable the show was. Several were commenting that they would like to see it again–or what friends would like to see this production. In all, not one negative note, facial expression, or frown was seen. That’s a great sign for a show’s success. Word of mouth means a lot. Sharing on social media also sells tickets.
The show begins on a high note with “Sing, Sing, Sing” and master drummer Ken Remmert doing the drum solo that characterized the immortal Gene Krupa. Remmert’s solo set the tone for the show to follow. Then, new to the Q, Sam Copeland burst into several bass solos for the evening. And, as always Barnhart’s piano mastery always drives the musical selections.
Bring into the mix a cast of Quality Hill proven vocalists, Samantha Agron, Christina Burton, Tim Noland, and Robert Eric Sobbe. All of the vocalists possess individual skills, voices, outstanding ranges, and versatility. They can sing the tightest and most intricate harmonies, backgrounds and then deliver an array of solos, each with different tones and emotional connections with the audience.
After that initial brilliant opening, the hits just did not stop. Consider “Alexander’s Rag Time Band,” that Barnhart said had been a top seller in four decades, and is till known by most people. After that consider “Daddy,” Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Candy,” “Que Sera, Sera,” “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “Come On-a-My House,” “Secret Love,” “Rags to Riches,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and that was only Act I. How can you follow that? Well, look at Act II.
“Catch a Falling Star,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Tammy,” “Yesterday,” “Downtown,” “Monday, Monday,” “Sherry,” “Ode to Billy Joe,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Close to You,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “Kansas City.” What a dynamite lineup of music!
Yes, there were ensemble numbers where harmonies were needed to perform the music reminiscent of the original or most famous recordings. However, it was the predominately solos that really sold the show.
For Agron, she sang “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Tennessee Waltz, “Secret Love,” “Tammy,” and “Close to You.” Agron delivered each song with a different tone and emotional connection with the audience. Her version of the Doris Day, Academy Award Winner, “Secret Love,” from Calamity Jane equaled Day’s recording.
Burton also sang Doris Day’s most famous song, “Que Sera, Sera,” from the Hitchcock classic with James Stewart, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Along with that, she did the Rosemary Looney “Come on-a-My House” in a sexy rendition not to be forgotten. Her version of “Ode to Billy Joe,” really emphasized the story-telling lyrics on the mega hit.
As for Tim Noland, his bigger voice cut loose on Tony Bennett’s 1950s top Billboard song, “Rags to Riches.” He also delivered Perry Como’s last big chart topper, “Catch a Falling Star.” He then carried the load on “Yesterday” and “Monday, Monday.” Generally,Noland is encouraged to softly croon music. This time his bigger voice gave great depth to the show.
Eric Sobbe, did the crooning on “Candy,” a song covered by Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford. Then, doffed his tux coat and broke into Elvis the Pelvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.” Not to be overshadowed by other performances, Sobbe broke out his boy soprano range for Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons chart-topper, “Sherry.”
Even with all those blockbuster songs by superb vocalists, Barnhart had his own time in the spotlight with a super solo version of Simon and Garfunkel’s biggest hit, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Barnhart’s musical arrangement, accompanied with his vocal performance equaled any of the other numbers in the show.
“Billboard Blockbusters” sets the bar high for any future cabaret-style show with this plethora of music knockouts. If there is only one night of theater you see, this should be it. The show continues through May 20, and as word spreads, shows will sell out.
And, as an added treat, The Q has expanded their evening of entertainment with the expansion of the lobby, a full-service bar, and now, the option to enjoying Andre’s famous desserts. Patrons can enjoy specialized desserts pre or post-show or can indulge during intermission. This added feature compliments the two nearby restaurants located so closely to The Q, a sports bar, The Quaff or the upscale Majestic. Both are less than a block away. What could be better for an evening out?
Andre’s Desserts available at The Q are:
Carrot cake: $8
Truffle torte (gluten free): $8
Tasting Trio (featuring one each of Matterhorn, Lemon Tartlet, Mocca Roulade): $14
Tea Cookies: $12
“Open 90 minutes before and after each performance, Quality Hill Playhouse’s lobby bar “The Q” is the perfect complement to a great performance. Come early or stay late to enjoy a beverage and chat with friends,” the Q said.
“Our commitment to Kansas City goes beyond hiring the best local talent. We also serve the finest local products. The Q proudly serves Tom’s Town spirits (vodka, gin, bourbon), Boulevard beer, and Parisi Bros coffee, in addition to wine, Coca-Cola products, hot cocoa, and
select additional liquors.
“The Q now serves desserts from Andre’s Confiserie Suisse, including a selection of cakes, pastries, and cookies. Arrive early to enjoy a treat before the show, or pre-order your dessert before the show, and it will be waiting for you at intermission or after the performance.”
Do not miss this show. Again, patrons, upon exit from the auditorium, could be heard expressing their happiness with the show and indicating that they could see it again. Go see this show. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 816.421.1700, at the box office or through the www.qualityhillplayhouse.com.
Tags: Quality Hill Playhouse, “Billboard Bockbusters”, Kansas City, Kansas City Music, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment