According to J. Kent Barnhart many of the songs written in the late 30’s or very early 40’s weren’t widely accepted or popular. Some of those songs breathed new life as the United States entered into World War II. Suddenly those songs were on the lips of everyone as they told of love and separation. Those songs were brought back to life in “I’ll Be Seeing You”, at the Quality Hill Playhouse.
J. Kent Barnhart, whose voice is magnificent and showed its wide range and versatility in the last song of the night, brought back songs like “Sentimental Journey”, “P.S. I Love You” and “I’m Glad There is You” among others. Between songs the way he talked of how they were created, or the people who wrote them expressed his passion for music. “When he told of the songs it was as if he had experienced the stories himself” said Christy Dearinger a member of the audience.
The voices of the ensemble, Lauren Braton, Colleen Grate and Molly Hammer, were in perfect harmony as they sang songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, “Pennsylvania Polka” and “Too Fat Polka”. Add the voice and piano of Barnhart, the drum of Julian Goff and the bass of Brian Wilson and you have a formula for success on the stage that would be hard to duplicate.
The enthusiasm towards the music could be heard in the voices of the women, but it could be seen in the body language and smiles of Braton and Grate. Hammer; who contributed some body language, smiled between songs but not when singing. During the first act I thought it was because the songs were serious love songs, but the lack of a smile continued into the upbeat second act. The lack of the smile wasn’t all bad. Her pouty lips, body language and her sultry voice made, “That Old Black Magic”, one of the sexiest songs ever performed.
The songs in the first act, though performed flawlessly, needed to be broken up around the middle with one of the songs from the second act. Though Barnhart was great at adding humorous quips between songs it would have been good to have relief from the somber songs of act one. That relief didn’t come until the last song of the first act and it let the audience walk away with a smile and a beat.
After watching the show in its entirety we walked away with a little more knowledge of the music, pride in our country, it would be hard to listen to the beautiful rendition of “God Bless America” without feeling that pride, and a smile. It is easy to understand why it is called Quality Hill Playhouse.