By Bob Evans
Baby-Boomer music draws crowds to Quality Hill Playhouse, and the new production, “You’ve Got a Friend” returns as one of the most popular shows in the theater’s history with sensational chart toppers from several celebrated artists.
Of course, James Taylor and Carole King’s music stands out in the show, and why not? They burst on the music scene with a string of hits and album successes. Their music stands the test of time and deserves its place in the Great American Songbook that Quality Hill Playhouse continues to perform through its various shows each season.
J. Kent Barnhart admitted that he saved the best for last with “You’ve Got a Friend.” The show played four years ago and was a huge success. Reviving it guarantees success and happy audiences. Audiences appreciated his decision, and at intermission many could be heard discoursing the music and performances during the first act. Anticipation for Act II continues till the dimming lights signaled the continuation of the show.
Director/piano/musical director Kent Barnhart always selects and signs the best possible voices to match the music selected for each show. “You’ve Got a Friend” continues to astound with the voices performing to the best combo in the city, Barnhart on piano; Brian Wilson on guitar; and Ken Remmert on drums.
Act I opened with some music from other artists like Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” by Peter, Paul and Mary; and “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” again by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Barnhard joined the other three on this set of songs. Then, the trio of performers set off into some individual songs. Jessalyn Kincaid gave a solid but painful emotional song of loneliness with Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen, after Christina Burton sang the mellow love song, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Erik Sobbe followed with “Fire and Rain.”
And then the James Taylor other songs followed; “ Sweet Baby James,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “Carolina on My Mind,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” and “Shower the People.” The first act ended with a Bill Withers song, “Lean on Me.”
As for the soloists, Sobbe sang the Elton John standard, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and then Kincaid and Burton followed with blockbuster renditions of “A Natural Woman,” and” Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”