Hooray for Hollywood
David Rogers and David Hogan have quite literally fine-tuned Hollywood Sings. They first presented this concert-style show as part of their Starbright Summer Festival at Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre in 2010. Now they’ve brought it back, bigger and better than ever, with Rogers as director and Hogan as choreographer.
They have assembled an excellent cast to take us on a walk through Hollywood history: we hear songs from the great musicals as well as the scores from film favourites. Susan Gilmour and June Crowley, both stars of Canadian musical theatre, command the stage in this show. They are joined by Diane Chase whose country style is popular with the Petrolia audience, and newcomer Christine McKeon. Local crooner Michael Vanhevel is back after wowing the Petrolia audience last year in the Sinatra salute, along with Brian Belleth and Mark Cassius: three men with rich, powerful voices.
The show opens with a history lesson on the great musicals from Hollywood’s golden era. If you’re not familiar with all the songs, vintage movie posters appear overhead on a big screen. June Crowley stands out with “My Foolish Heart”.
The fun begins when Diane Chase, looking miserable with a newspaper over her head, slouches in wearing oversized rubber boots singing “Stormy Weather”. In contrast, Christine McKeon sings and dances her way through a very spirited rendition “Singing in the Rain” at the same time. They are followed by Michael Vanhevel’s smooth voice in “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”.
There is also a salute to Marnie Nixon – if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the voice if you’re a fan of movie musicals. Nixon’s beautiful soprano voice was dubbed for many movie stars – she sang for Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember and The King and I, for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, to name a few. In Hollywood Sings, June Crowley sings Marnie Nixon’s parts, while Susan Gilmour lip-synchs, and the audience loves it when they get out of synch. Gilmour, who played the role of Fantine in Les Misérables in Toronto and on Broadway, comments that they let Anne Hathaway sing the part herself in the Les Mis movie.
Some of the audience favourites include Michael Vanhevel’s “Moon River”, Susan Gilmour’s “The Man that got Away”, part of a wonderful Judy Garland set, and Mark Cassius singing Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. Also popular is an Abba/Mama Mia set, complete with sequins and bell-bottoms, and my person favourite “I Have a Dream”;
The four women, looking stunning in a variety of brilliant red gowns, while the men wear red ties with black tuxes, present a wonderful medley of movie love songs, including Unchained Melody from Ghost, Evergreen from A Star is Born, and songs from The Rose, Mahogany, Dirty Dancing and more. Brain Belleth’s Godfather theme is beautiful.
The comedy includes the cast dressed in curtains as the Von Trapp children for The Sound of Music, and a Vaudevillian number with babies in highchairs.
The Starbright Band is on stage throughout and performs perfectly – Mark Payne on the grand piano and providing vocals as well, along with Alex Baerg, Daniel Baerg, Jesse Grandmont, and Mark Laidman.
Just when you think they can’t pack in any more music, the evening concludes with Disney favourites: songs from Cinderella, Pinocchio, Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, Beauty and Beast, Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, Little Mermaid, Hercules, Aladdin, Pocahontas, wrapping up with a thrilling rendition of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life”.
Hollywood Sings is a fine example of what Rogers and Hogan do best: they put together a cast of great voices and choose rich songs to showcase those voices. Then they add some humour, and mix in a few numbers that will pull your heartstrings. Such a fine display of talent is not to be missed.
Hollywood Sings continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 22. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca
Conceived and directed by David Rogers
Choreographed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Brian Belleth, Mark Cassius, Diane Chase, June Crowley, Susan Gilmour, Christine McKeon and Michael Vanhevel
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
September 4 to 22, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson