JULY 11, 2001
As the old song goes…. “I Got Rhythm…. who could ask for anything more.”
Well, turns out you could ask for a bit more… more story, more characters, more glue to hold together nearly three hours of musical memories that span 100 years.
Writer-director Kerry Meads and musical director/arranger Vanda Eggington have cobbled together 230 song snippets intended to capture the musical essence of the 20th century. It doesn’t work quite as well as their earlier venture, which just stuck to one generation (“Boomers”) and was thoroughly engaging (and you can catch it again, through July 22, at the Lamb’s resident theater in Coronado)..
In “American Rhythm,” there’s only space for a titillation of each age group, and then it’s time to move on. A bit unsatisfying, though it’s fun to watch the audience respond, in age-determined waves, to their music of choice and familiarity.
At first, things proceed swimmingly, with each era introduced by an entertaining Tom Stephenson, reading the day’s headlines, framing the medleys in a social, political (and sports!) context. But then, everything changes. The ’40s get too much time; the ’60s and ’90s get short shrift. Suddenly, actors start talking to the audience and telling personal stories to launch another segment. And the chronology gets all balled up. In the middle of the ’70s, there’s salsa, then talk of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, which leads clumsily to his praise of the Great American Musical, which introduces two musical theater excerpts: “Ol’ Man River” (from “Show Boat,” which premiered in 1927) and “Being Alive” (from Sondheim’s 1970 ‘Company’). Huh??
Besides Stephenson’s “Born in the USA” and “Money for Nothin’ (Chicks for Free),” the highlights of the evening (in last year’s premiere of the show) were just about anything from Equity performers Melinda Gilb and Phil Johnson. Johnson’s still in this year’s reprise, but Gilb, unfortunately, isn’t. Together, they provided all of the humor and most of the juice. The band is great, the costumes (designed by Jeanne Reith) are terrific, but the dancing is variable, and so, at times, is the singing.
No new insights here about the century or the songs, and no musical ‘finds’. Mostly, it’s a pleasant summer nostalgia trip — with none of the ‘trip’ of the ’60s (Janice and Jimi, anyone??),
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.