By Bob Evans
Off to one of the most stellar beginnings in recent years, “That Old Black Magic” brings together Quality Hill Playhouse’s best cabaret-style productions and the timeless musical compositions of Harold Arlen, complete with stunning performances by vocalists and musicians..
J. Kent Barnhart, always selects the prefect vocalists and musicians to enhance his musical shows that feature many standards, all from the Great American Songbook. “That Old Black Magic’ allows three powerhouse performers to exercise their vocal gymnastics and nuances through some beautiful arrangements of composer Harold Arlen’s music.
Lauren Braton, Christina Burton, and LaShea Wright perform flawlessly, while bedazzled is ravishing gowns designed and crafted by Georgianna Londre Buchanan. And, the gowns drew instantaneous attention as the vocal divas entered the stage. Then, the slug-fest began with each authoritative deliverance of Arlen’s music.
As for the accompaniment, Barnhart on piano leads the parade, with the skilled addition of a trio of musicians who bring depth to the enjoyment of the evening. Ken Remmert on percussion always adds an element of style, class, and enjoyment as he beats the skins. New to Quality Hill with this production, Kevin Payton plucks a mean bass violin with exuberance and flair. And, Matt Baldwin enhances the musical mix with dynamic reed action on his clarinet and saxophone.
Combine, Barnhard, his band, three fabulous vocal artists, beautiful costumes, elegant arrangements, with many well-known musical compositions for an idea of what “That Old Black Magic” offers for winter doldrums.
Arlen’s well-known offerings for “That Old Black Magic” include “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” I’ve Got the World on a String,” “When the Sun Comes Out,” “Stormy Weather,” “Get Happy,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Blues in the Night,” “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow,” “Accentuate the Positive,” and others.
The show starts off with Arlen’s most recognized selections and then slows down a bit with some lesser-known but beautifully sung and orchestrated musical numbers. Barhnart explained the career path of Arlen and provided a history class as he traced Arlen’s musical career from teenager to Harlem, to Broadway, to Hollywood. Some of the lesser-known selections illustrate the diversity of Arlen’s career and the collaborations with different lyricists. Even though some songs are not well-known, their inclusion spotlights his career path, the exquisite style of the vocalists, and the performance skills of the band members.
Patrons to Quality Hill can not help but notice the expansive upgrade to the venue with the added lounge, private seating, and bar areas. Tables, chairs, conversation corner, bar, and added exit make the facility more lush and inviting for pre-show, intermission, and after-show visiting.
“That Old Black Magic” continues at Quality Hill Playhouse through February 18. Tickets may be purchases by phone 816.421.1700 or via the QHP website. Prorated season tickets and season tickets for next season may also be purchased.
Quality Hill also offers three escorted theater trips annually to New York in August and September. All 40 seats for each upcoming 2018 trips are sold out, but interested parties are encouraged to join the waiting list for unexpected openings.
Tags: Quality Hill Playhouse, “That Old Black Magic”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Music