An evening of jam-packed entertainment through music awaits all that attend the current production at Kansas City’s Quality Hill Playhouse for their show, Your Hit Parade, featuring the music of 1935-1957, from the radio and TV show.
Your Hit Parade, J. Kent Barnhart, said originated on radio in 1935, sponsored by Lucky Strike, the then popular cigarette brand of the American Tobacco Company. Oldies that remember the show and the sponsor may also remember LSMFT (Lucky Strike means fine tobacco). If audiences remember that, they lived through the memorable show’s run and know the music featured in the Quality Hill Playhouse’s production of Your Hit Parade.
Absolutely focused on the weekly play lists of the show, Barnhart researched the top songs of each week, looked at songs that hit the top of the chars for several weeks, and decided which gems to include in a two-hour show that would tweak the memory of audiences. For this, most selected music spans the 40s and early 50s.
After almost two hours of songs, one of the final songs, delivered by Tim Scott, “Jailhouse Rock,” the demise of the TV show comes to clear focus. As Barnhart said, after Scott’s strong performance of the Elvis Presley song, “Why would people tune in to watch a crooner, Snooky Lanson, sing “Jailhouse Rock,” when they can see Elvis Presley live on Ed Sullivan or Jack Parr’s shows?” Barnhart said Your Hit Parade needed to change or fade. They faded and died.
Not so with the re-creation of Your Hit Parade at QHP. The music and fun of the original radio and TV phenomenon come back to life in the limited performances (until Oct. 27) by an ensemble of very talented performers.
“The original ‘Your Hit Parade’ hit the airwaves on April 20, 1935 with Bing Crosby’s Number One song, ‘Soon.’ On radio and later television, the program would count down the week’s top hits and featured a regular cast of singers who gained popularity in their own right. A precursor to such shows as American Bandstand and even American Idol, Your Hit Parade ran for 24 years, from 1935 to 1958, and attained a level of longevity and popularity that no other musical program has been able to match,” a press release stated.
As a theme for the 2013 season, Barnhart decided to resurrect past QHP shows and give audiences a chance to see them again or freshly experience past successful shows. He decided to recall performers from the original productions when possible. Barnhart recalled Tim Scott, who performed in the QHP original Your Hit Parade to return and perform again with the ensemble. With Scott and Barnhart representing QHP’s older version of the show, new female voices needed to be added.
New to the current production, three beautiful voices return to QHP in the form of Lauren Braton, Molly Hammer, and Kathryn Long. For the accompaniment, Julian Goff on percussion, Brian Wilson on bass, and Barnhart on piano provide all the needed music with flair.
Act I recalls the early days of the show and mainly its radio beginnings. Songs in the first act included: “This Can’t Be Love,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Play a Simple Melody,” “The Way our Look Tonight,” and more. As the act continues, audiences are treated to solos, duets, trios, and quartet renditions of the classics of the American Songbook genre.
Braton and Hammer duel on the Irving Berlin song, “Play a Simple Melody” by each singing the alternate lyrics to the same music. Each belts out her lyrics while Barnhart remains caught in the middle and on the keyboard. Long and Scott rekindle the Rodgers and Hammerstein love song from Oklahoma!, “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and received loud approval.
The Andrews Sisters’ classic, “Pistol Packing Mama,” and the Johnny Mercer classic, “Dream” drew the loudest applause for the audience. With his consistent effort to educate audiences, Barnhart always includes lesser known songs in each of his shows. For Your Hit Parade, he chose “These Foolish Things,” and “Two Sleepy People.” Although not “forgotten” songs, they are not songs recrafted by current vocalists when they create an American Songbook album.
As always, Act II builds on the show theme and drives the evening’s entertainment with more popularity and force. Act II features the songs made famous by recording artists and come from the TV era of the original Your Hit Parade.
Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-A-My House” allowed Hammer to get sultry and sexy with her delivery. The low register of her voice gave the song a suggestive interpretation to the enjoyment of the audience. She later took on the Connie Francis signature hit, “Who’s Sorry Now” and belted the song with gusto via her vocal strengths.
Long’s “Old Cape Cod” gave audiences a chance to remember the popular 50's vocalist that scored with the song, Patti Page. She sang the song with reverence and allure. “Tammy,” the Debbie Reynolds hit from the movie of the same name gave Long another chance to again take viewers on a trip down memory lane. Her crisp vocals on the soft ballad were outstanding.
Not to be outdone, Braton, did more than justice with Patti Page’s early single, “Tennessee Waltz.” She also, gave a great performance on the Doris Day signature song, “Que Sera, Sera.” She sang both with the ease that characterized both classic vocalists.
As a trio, the women gave voice and stimulation to the Chordettes mega-hit, “Mr. Sandman.” Everyone knows the song and the audience could be seen singing along (silently) or tapping their feet, or nodding approval as the song continues. Everyone enjoyed the trio’s collaboration on the song.
Not to be outdone in any sense, Tim Scott took the stage by storm for his two Act II solos, by first cutting loose on the Johnny Ray mega-hit, “Cry.” Reminiscent of Ray’s style, Scott sang the first chorus with controlled passion and then jumped into the signature Ray style of really let the emotions of the song blast forth with Scott’s powerhouse voice. The song fitted his voice very well and his delivery delighted the audience. Later, he really cut loose on Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.” Both received loud appreciation from the audience.
Solos by the band enabled them to show their musical expertise. Barnhart crafted the show so that during a couple of songs, Wilson and Goff showed off their solo skills. Probably most notable was Wilson on the bass. His performance really stood out.
And, it goes without saying, Barnhart on piano is always worth the ticket price. In several songs, he had some intricate and fast syncopating rhythm and harmonies that enhance each and every song. Of particular note, “Play a Simple Melody,” and “Rock Around the Clock” stand out as favorites of the evening.
For an enjoyable evening that’s suitable for all ages, the show comes with the highest recommendations. So much of the music played brings forth memories of bygone times. With government shutdowns, unemployment, foreign relations, economic problems, and more, an evening with Barnhart and the QHP performers allows everyone to just leave all the burdens outside the doors and enter into a sanctuary where music relieves current issues and soothes the mind, body, and soul.
For more information, contact the box office at 816.421.1700 or the website: qualityhillplayhouse.com. The current show runs through Oct. 27.