Quality Hill wows with tap dancing trio of performers


by Bob Evans

For a surprising change of pace, Quality Hill Playhouse strayed (but not too far) from its roots of presenting music from The Great American Song Book by adding another dimension to their standard musical-cabaret format–tap dancing.

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For this show, J. Kent Barnhart called on the choreography expertise of Christina Burton to put the moves and rat-ta-tat-rat into the toes of the performing trio of performers for “I Got Rhythm.” Burton, who performs on occasion at QHP, generally displays her powerhouse vocals when part of the cast, called on her dance background to command the three dancers for “I Got Rhythm.”

For the show, Barnhart dialed up his knowledge of Broadway and cinema musicals to drive the show. The first half of the show focused on music from Broadway shows, while the second act dove into cinematic musical. Much of the music is reminiscent of the musicals of the 1930-40s eras when both coast lines cranked out winners. Much celebrated in the show are Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and, of course, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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Act I featured some Broadway obscure offerings and ended with a rousing tribute to the quintessential big musical “42nd Street.” Who can forget “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me,” “We’re in the Money,” “A Quarter to Nine,” and the title song “42nd Street”? Besides the well known songs, Barnhart always schools his audiences with the unknown offerings like “Nagasaki” and “Tap Your Troubles Away”==from the Jerry Herman songbook and his lackluster Broadway show, “Mack and Mabel.”

Handsome crooner, Taylor Avazpour returned for this third show in two years at Quality Hill, but this time showed off his tapping talent as well as his robust vocals. His two signature pieces for this show were “Top Hat White Tie and Tails,” reminiscent of the iconic Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers, His other solo was the Cole Porter standard, “Begin the Beguine,” his which fostered his emotional performance range to the plaintive love song.

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In her first show at Quality Hill Playhouse, Amy Hurrelbrink brings both her soft soprano voice, a sultry low register alto voice, and her tap shoes. Hurrelbrink a local performer and choreographer has appeared regularly and choreographed for Theatre for Young America in historic Union Station. Hurrelbrink’s dancing is just an added touch to her performance. She’s funny and cleaver in some of the songs and displays several her range of emotions from funny to sentimental, to energetic. Her tandem tap number, “Tap Your Troubles Away” with fellow newcomer, Stefanie Stephens was a standout in Act I. Recently, Hurrelbrink performed in “Chicago” at New Theatre.

Also making her Quality Hill debut, Stefanie Steven brings her musical theatre background and beautiful soprano voice. Stevens, like Hurrelbrink, appears throughout the KC metro. Stevens has done musical-comedy with Egads! Theatre including “Rocky Horror Show.” Recently at The Barn, her dramatic skills blossomed as the love interest in “The Elephant Man.” Stevens performed in “A Chorus Line” last season at Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park. Stephanie performed in most of the duets and trio numbers in the show, but her standout number comes at the beginning of Act II when she solos on “Dancing in the Dark.”    Her tap skills, her beautiful smile, and her clear soprano are on display, throughout the show.

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“I Got Rhythm” definitely signals a move to more dance than normal at QHP, but still paramount to the shows is the musical expertise of director Barnhart and the duo playing with him. For this show, he relies on Brian Wilson on bass and Kyle Brown on percussion. Barnhart surprised the audience with an instrumental Act II opening with the Ragtime music of Scott Joplin. The number featured three Joplin songs and solos by the two other band members. True to all QHP productions, the musicians stand equal to the performers.

Count on Barnhart to always make the right choices in musicians and performers. This troupe brings the dynamite. Expect to be entertained from the first note to the last tap. Music and dance combine for a fun-filled evening.

“I Got Rhythm” will be a super-popular production as the word spreads and the season-ticket holders file through. This production continues through Feb. 19. Evening performance begin at 7:30. Several days feature afternoon matinees. Check the QHP website for dates, times, and tickets.

Tags:  Performing Arts, Quality Hill Playhouse, Music, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, “I Got Rhythm”, Kansas City Theater


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