Quality Hill Playhouse ushered in its newest and last production of the season, “Great Duets of Musical Theatre” with the return of a former performer, Stacey Stofferahn and welcomed new QHP talent, Tyler Eisenreich, Shelby Floyd and Vigthor Zophoniasson, while J. Kent Barnhard tickeled the ivories for the show.
“Great Duets of Musical Theatre” celebrated both old and new musicals as Barnhart expained that the old musicals were in the genra of musical/comedy all with happy and upbeat endings. New musical theater takes on a different, more dramatic and darker turn with such musicals as “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “SideShow,” and others.
That being the case, Barnhart stayed true to the original Broadway with the first half and then allowed the deeper and darker music to dominate the second act. His four talented accomplices for the evening helped move the production along as it led the audience along with beautiful duets and familiar pieces, only to eventually turn to more serious and not-so-well-known musical selections.
Depend on Barnhart to entertain and educate his audiences nightly with both his selections and commentary about the selections. This production brought a gentler dialogue from Barnhart as he explained how musical theater evolved and gently guides audiences to see changes or social issues in a kinder, more gentle approach.
He said that musical theater allows the audience to grow and accept issues that they may not be fully ready to consider. Barnhart said that people need to be kinder to each other and musical theater allows them to see how others face similar problems and that hope exists for solution or resolution.
Act I allowed pairings of well matched voices as Stofferahn and Zophoniasson, both trained operatic voices sang such familiar songs as “Make Believe” from “Showboat,” “Till There Was You” from “The Music Man,” “My Time of Day/I’ve Never Been in Love Before” from “Guys and Dolls,” and “Tonight” from “West Side Story.”
Not to be outdone, Floyd and Eisenreich presented “I Have Dreamed/We Kiss in a Shadow” from “The King and I,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” from “Oklahoma!,” “How About You” from “Babes on Broadway,” and “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie, Get Your Gun!”
As the end of Act I, the men combined for one of the hits from “City of Angels,” the song, “You’re Nothing Without Me.”
Act II moved to the more dramatic and newer musicals, other than a fun duet from “Victor/Victoria,” “ You and Me.”
Included in Act II, music from “Follies,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Closer Than Ever,” “The Light in the Piazza,” “Godspell,” “Big River,” “Sideshow,” “Falsettos,” and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Aspects of Love.”
Of the later songs, the girls paired for a beautiful song, “I Will Never Leave You,” about conjoined twins from “Sideshow. The men teamed for “What Would I Do,” from “Falsettos.” Both songs were about social acceptance themes relevant to the time of the show’s setting. Each emphasized human emotions and personal growth.
Overall, the show was a beautiful creation of Barnhart to select both music and performers to create the ambiance and theme he desired. As always, his keyboard skills are excellent and this production utilized his strengths at the piano and still allowed him to sing along with Floyd on two songs.
Those who enjoy musical theater will appreciate both acts of “Great Duets of Musical Theatre” at the Quality Hill Playhouse. The show runs through Aug. 17 in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Ticket information can be found at the Quality Hill website. The show comes with the highest recommendations.