After immigrating to America with his family at age five, Irving Berlin later developed music that lives on today, and serves as the backbone of the Great American Songbook.
Hardly a holiday passes without memories of a Berlin song. Who doesn’t know “Easter Parade”?
How about “White Christmas”? And, what can be more patriotic at this minute than “God Bless America,” as the USA watches while Turkey invades Syria, targeting Kurds who helped defeat ISIS?
As the cast broke into their final number of the current show at the Quality Hill Playhouse, “The Melody Lingers On,” the audience rose to their as soon as the chorus began. “God Bless America, land that I love.” With those words, first one man rose, then his wife, and by the end of the next line, everyone stood. Some put their hands on their hearts while others put their arm around their companions. The pride in America showed and one could feel the swell of energy and electricity generate from the crowd to the cast.
“The Melody Lingers On” continues at Quality Hill Playhouse through Nov. 3 with a cast of four. The cast is: Tim Noland, who appeared in the first Quality Hill show 25 years ago; Sarah LaBarr, who appears occasionally in Quality Hill shows; Molliann McCulley, who appears in just her second Quality Hill production; and, of course, founding artistic director and musical master, J. Kent Barnhart, whose vision for Quality Hill Playhouse has continued now for 25 years.
With this being the Silver Anniversary of Quality Hill Playhouse, Barnhart decides to take his audiences on a journey through QHPs past and to do so by re-visiting some of the favorite shows of years past. What could be a better way to begin this new journey than to re-visit the first show produced at Quality Hill, “The Melody Lingers On.”?
“This first show of our Silver Anniversary Season is a re-imagined look at the very first show we produced in 1995. Intimate, original, funny, and exciting, this cabaret revue is a celebration of Irving Berlin, the father of the American Songbook. His career spanned six decades and touched every aspect of popular song, including standards,” Quality Hill said.
As Barnhart started with himself, a piano, and a small cast for friends, His initial cabaret-style show, “The Music Lingers On” showcased the music of Irving Berlin. For this reflective time-travel, original cast member Tim Noland returns. Noland makes guest appearances throughout the years.
“When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabamy” gives Noland a chance to use his big voice with an up tempo ditty. He also used his more mellow crooners voice for the plaintive “Change Partners.” The duet from “Annie Get Your Gun” paired him with Sarah LaBarr for their “Old Fashioned Wedding” where each sings a different lyric to the same song.
As for LaBarr, her strongest solos both came from “Annie Get Your Gun.” She sang, “I Got Lost in His Arms” and “They Say It’s Wonderful.” In Act I, she displayed her melancholy Berlin classic, “How Deep Is the Ocean.” Barr’s clear soprano tones paired beautifully with arrangements.
Newest member of the Quality Hill family, Molliann McCulley let her personality explode with the novelty song “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” and also a fun version of “I Love a Piano.” Her vocal performance added gusto to both songs.
Barnhart, always provides commentary and education throughout his shows as he explains how and where the music originates. His commentary always insures that the audience finds new music, understands more about the musical choices, and explains the social aspects of the different eras. Along with that, he accompanies the vocalists and sings as a solo, or as part of a duet, a tri, or quartet.
Some of the song included are: “Always”, “Blue Skies”, “How Deep Is The Ocean”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” “Doing What Comes Naturally”, “I Got Lost in his Arms”, “Cheek To Cheek”, “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, and the patriotic “God Bless America.”
If looking for an evening out that won’t break the bank, does not last late into the night, and highly entertains, do not miss this evening. The cabaret show runs under two hours with a 15 minute intermission. Pre and post-show desserts from Andre’s are available at the bar.
“The Melody Lingers On” continues at Quality Hill Playhouse through Nov. 3. Tickets and more information about Quality Hill and upcoming shows, times, prices, etc. can be found on the Quality Hill Playhouse website.
Tags: “The Melody Lingers On” review, Quality Hill Playhouse, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment