You might think that a musical review of songs based on Shakespeare would provoke anomie, but this lively evening at the Westport Country Playhouse does anything but. Six lively and talented performers and a seven-piece orchestra fill the hall with some gorgeous sound.
The performers: Karen Akers, Britney Coleman, Darius de Haas, Stephen DeRosa, Constantine Germanacos and Laurie Wells sing some 23 songs in the fast-paced 90 minute review accompanied by the band and orchestrations of (mostly) Wayne Barker on piano, along with the odd but successful light sound of one woodwind player who plays everything, and accordion, cello, bass, harp and percussion.
If you were asked to name the songs that you’d find in such a review, you’d come up with songs from Kiss Me Kate and West Side Story right away, but don’t forget The Boys from Syracuse, based on A Comedy of Errors. But you probably forgot Frank Loesser’s Hamlet from Red, Hot and Blue, and probably didn’t know of “What a Piece of Work is Man,” from Hair. And how about Speak Low by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash?
In other words, the songs in this show are surprising enough to keep you listening rather than being a predictable community pop review. And the singers are both capable singers and actors, and in the case of the gorgeous Britney Coleman, fine dancers too.
It was a pleasure to again see Stephen DeRosa, the accomplished singer and comic actor clowning in Shakespeare garb as well as singing “What Can you Do with a Man” with Laurie Wells as well as more seriously in Nino Rota’s “What is a Youth.”
And when Constantine Germanacos finally cuts loose as Tony in Maria, we see what we’ve been waiting for in this handsome leading man and singer.
Darius de Haas entertains throughout with his lovely light tenor voice and is great in the trio “Where is the Life that Late I Led (Cole Porter) with de Rosa and Germanacos. And Laurie Wells shone in “Darn that Dream” (de Lange/van Heusen).
The show ends with a gorgeous 6-part harmony chorale of “Somewhere,” the number that ends West Side Story, showing how marvelous Bernstein’s harmonic writing was. And, of course, they encore with “Brush up Your Shakespeare.”
The show, premiering here, was conceived and directed by Mark Lamos with Wayne Barker and Deborah Grace Winer, and has been extended through June 28. Performances are Tuesdays at 8pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available at the theater’s web site or by calling 888-927-7529.