Producer/director J. Kent Barnhart scores again with a fabulous array of numbers gleaned from the Barry Manilow, Bette Midler songbooks, an he peppers them with a few songs from other Broadway shows of the 1970s. Manilow and Midler began their solo careers with Ms. Midler singing in the gay bath houses of New York City with Mr. Manilow as her pianist.
“Barry, Bette and Broadway” delivers knockout songs at a rapid-fire pace, keeping the audience transfixed on the familiar music, famous lyrics, and melodic accompaniment. J. Kent Barnhart takes a more active role in performing with this show that features newcomer Patrick Beasley along with returning performers Cindy Baker and Ashley Pankow.
The show opens with “Optimistic Voices” the song from The Wizard of Oz when the munchkins first appear. And it sounds just like the kind of strange selection Bette Midler would have included on a vinyl disk years ago. Sure enough, Google it and find the audio that pairs the song with “Lullaby of Broadway,” the second song to open the production. The medley is fun, up beat, and appropriate for a tour of The Divine Miss M’s signature songs.
The onslaught of Miss M’s music continues with “Chapel of Love,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Big Noise from Winnetka,” “Stuff Like That,” “The Rose,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and “From a Distance.” For those songs, Cindy Baker and Ashley Pankow dominated and displayed their artistic style without mimicking the Divine Diva. “The Rose” by Baker told the poignant story of love. “From a Distance” allowed Pankow to croon a tender melody of hope and anticipation.
Patrick Beasley mounted the task of following the two melodious performers when he sang “Anthem” from the Broadway show “ Chess,” a mega hit in London but a flop on Broadway with only a two month run. Later in Act I, Beasley sang the optimistic “Corner of the Sky,” the only hit from Pippin that gained radio play time.
To end the first act, Barnhard drew from the Jerry Herman songbook and chose the rousing and happy tune, “The Best of Times,” which closed Act I to leave the audience feeling good and begging for more.
Act II focused on the hits of Barry Manilow and gave Beasley more opportunity to perform the well-known music of the artist. Sometimes backed up by the cast, Beasley cut loose with “Daybreak,” “Can’t Smile Without You,” “When October Goes,” “Could It Be Magic,” and “Mandy.” Beasley’s voice matches the soothing sounds of Manilow’s delivery quite well.
Barnhart took the lead vocals in both acts with “The Mason” in Act I and “Lay Me Down” in Act II. The entire cast performed many of the songs in euphonious collaboration. “I Write the Songs,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “One Voice” and “The Best of Times” allowed the quartet to harmonize and blend to the enjoyment of the audience.
Along with the vocal performances, Barnhart’s piano accompaniment always astounds the audience, and when it is combined with Brian Wilson’s bass skills and Ken Remmert’s percussion, the trio demands equal attention. Remmert performed several percussion solos to the enjoyment of the audience.
“Barry, Bette, and Broadway comes with an enthusiastic recommendation for those that enjoy the music of the 1970s. The show definitely entertains and leaves the audience wanting more. The time goes fast when familiar and popular music comes at a fast pace as it does in this show.
This show continues through Oct. at Quality Hill Playhouse, near 10th and Broadway in Kansas City, Missouri. For ticketing, times, dates, and more information, go to the Quality Hill Playhouse website.