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A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING Review – One Enchanted Evening!

By Patricia Simms

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Captivating from beginning to end, A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING was originally presented cabaret-style at Rainbow & Stars at the top of Rockefeller Center. The Broadway production, directed by Walter Bobbie, opened in 1993 and was nominated for two 1994 Tony Awards®, for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue. Some pedigree, huh?

 

The chic, exhilarating, soul-satisfying Chicago production, now at the freshly renovated Mercury Theater in Wrigleyville showcases captivating songs from Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song—the list of 30 songs goes on––and so does the shear joy.

 

Directed and choreographed by multiple Jeff winner Kevin Bellie, who previously served as Artistic Director at Circle Theatre, the songs take us on an exploration of life and love and all the complexities in between.

 



 

The incomparable singer/dancers of the show—Robert Hunt, Stephen Shellhardt, Marya Grandy, Leah Morrow, and Heather Townsend––could not have been better. They didn’t miss a step or a beat or a cue. They were so good, they even played pranks on the musicians who so ably accompanied them. 



Under the direction of Eugene Dizon (6-time Jeff Award Winner), the vocal magic was complemented by a fantastic live 6 piece band onstage that included a harp and a cello: Piano/Concuctor, Elizabeth Doran; Cello: Laurel Humiston, Harp: Jennifer Ruggieri; Percussion: Lindsay Williams; Woodwinds: Anthony Parsons; Bass: Sam Flip.  Calling this extraoridinary group of musicians "a band" is an understatement.  The quality of the sound they created with such an eclectic assortment of instruments was exceptional.

 

The Production Team also includes Jason Epperson, Scenic and Lighting Designer; Kathryn-Sarah Phillips, Costume Designer; and Mike Ross, Sound Designer.

 



Individually, every member of the ensemble was outstanding. Robert Hunt’s “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific was heart-stopping. Not only was his powerful voice and demeanor solemn and heartfelt, the show was paced to allow for this mood change. Marya Grandy’s “I Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma was delightfully ditsy. Hearing Stephen Shellhardt sing “Maria” from Sound of Music gave the words an entirely new meaning just as hearing “The Gentleman is a Dope” from Allegro as interpreted by Leah Morrow gave the words a different spin. The statuesque Heather Townsend’s “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific is triumphant in its clarity and exuberance.

 

As an ensemble, these extraordinarily talented five soared. The combined power of all their voices and interpretive skills (not to mention the tear away skirt) gave their high voltage performance exuberance.

 



Framed in the lovingly restored The Mercury Theater, an intimate jewel-box with a gorgeous new front of house layout, state of the art lighting, and sound systems, every conceivable detail was par excellence.

 

The Mercury Theater is an intimate jewel-box in the heart of the Southport corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. It adjoins two restaurants; Cullen’s Bar and Grill and Deleece, which offer dining and libations before and after the show.

 

Under the leadership of Executive Director L. Walter Stearns, the Mercury is offering a season of musicals for the first time, making it the largest producer of musical theater in Chicago. A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING is the first of four shows in the Mercury’s 2013 season, and will be followed up by the musicals BARNUM and THE COLOR PURPLE, along with the return engagement of Chicago’s holiday musical THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER.

 

Notable past productions at the historic theater include A TWIST OF WATER (which recently closed off-Broadway), THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS (now it its 3rd year of a national tour), THE IRISH AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY and OVER THE TAVERN.  The smash hit original production of FREUD’S LAST SESSION ended a nine-month run in November 2012, and is now headed toLos Angeles.

 

 Performances are from January 16 to March 10, 2013.

Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m.,
Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 
Tickets range from $25 to $59.
Season Flex Passes are $80 for 3 shows and $100 for all 4.
Groups of 10 or more receive discounts of up to 50%. 
For tickets and information contact the Mercury Theater at 773-325-1700 or www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.

Published on Jan 21, 2013

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