Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July 2004
Okay, this is another one of those revues, the kind I usually don’t like. The formula is simple, take an even number of attractive and moderately talented young men and women and select a group of songs with a common theme – they are all by the same composer, they were all made famous by the same deceased singer, they are all the same genre, or, if you are really desperate, they all have the same focus, say songs about teeth or horses or girls (and boys) named Sue. Build a serviceable amorphous set, turn up the lights, and sell tickets. Drives me absolutely crazy.
So I was not predisposed to like Beguiled Again when I entered the Theater Barn and discovered an serviceable amorphous set (art deco), an even number of attractive and moderately talented young men and women (three of each, all white), and a collection of songs all by Richard Rodgers and his first lyricist partner, Lorenz Hart. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was having fun!
Part of that can be attributed to the fact that I like the music of Rodgers and Hart, and because I like it I am of the opinion that you should like it too. Richard Rodgers was undoubtedly the greatest composer of the American musical theatre. People who argue in favor of Sondheim or Lesser are usually think of Rodgers only as a part of that grand conglomerate RodgersAndHammerstein, two names welded together forever like the faces on Mount Rushmore. They need to go and see Beguiled Again to hear the enormous and delightful body of work Rodgers created before he teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II, a pairing that was only made necessary by the untimely death of Larry Hart in 1943. Hammerstein was the cock-eyed optimist, coupled with Hart Rodgers’ music is less lush, but has far more spunk and verve.
If you are under the impression that you have never heard the work of Rodgers and Hart, I am sure you are mistaken. Only the very young and the dedicated hermit can possibly have missed hearing at least one of their many delightful works. The title of this review comes from one of their well known numbers: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. They also wrote I’ll Take Manhattan, The Lady is a Tramp, I Wish I Were In Love Again, and many, many other standards. This revue, which was originally conceived by Lynette Barkley and Craig D. Ames, with musical arrangements by Ames, includes some of my favorite off-beat Rodgers and Hart numbers as well, such as Zip and To Keep My Love Alive A variety of different sets of lyrics that Hart penned for the tune that ended up being Blue Moon are performed, which is interesting to hear.
If you really don’t like Rodgers and Hart, then you probably won’t like this show either, because the music and lyrics are all there is. In my opinion that is the best possible way to structure these shows. Writing dull historical patter for the actors to mumble between numbers is deadly, and there is none of that here. The performers don’t have names and they don’t try to assume “personalities.” They just sing and dance. And this crew is pretty good at that. Mix enough charisma and talent with Abe Phelps’ more than serviceable set (another fabulous Phelps faux finish floor there), Michael Marotta’s creative direction and choreography, a spiffy on-stage band headed by musical director and pianist Kasey RT Graham, and Jacci Fredenburg’s attractive and witty costumes, and you really have an entertaining evening of theatre.
Of the three young men, Robert McCaffrey (who I remember I kept calling bland until I saw him in a leopard print G-string in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and Jarret Mallon have performed at the Theater Barn before. McCaffrey has a little more age on his baby face and it looks good. He is a good singer and an amusing comic actor and he gets a chance to show off both talents here in moderation. Mallon is an interesting performer. He has a certain fresh and unique style that I find intriguing. Wait until you see his sexy tap number in this show. I hope he gets a chance to appear in more local productions soon.
I was all ready to give newcomer Douglas Ullman, Jr. the Bland and Blond Award for the evening until a solo allowed me to really listen to his fine tenor voice and a cha-cha in a Carmen Miranda headdress permitted his comic side to show. He is young but I think he has something there. Again, I hope he stays around and I get a chance to see him tackle some different roles.
Like Mallon, Eleanore E. Gutwein has a unique look which helps her stand out from the crowd. Petite and doe-eyed with a medusa-like crown of curls, she is an appealing performer. Alas, I never did decide which one of the two pretty blondes was Lindsay Marie Thomas and which was local girl Rachel Wolff because neither of their headshots in the lobby bore much resemblance to the way they appeared on stage. But which ever one is which, they are both sweetly pretty and sing nicely. They just need to develop their own individual performance styles and get new headshots.
What a wonderful surprise to discover such a fresh and entertaining revue! And what a great way to expose young peopl to some terrific American theatre music that they might not otherwise hear. Pack the family in the car and go see “Beguiled Again” while you can.
Beguiled Again runs through August 8 at The Theater Barn, located on Rt. 20 just west of the town of New Lebanon, NY. The show runs an hour and forty-five minutes with one intermission and is suitable for the whole family. Call the box office at 518-794-8989 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2004