Theater Review: Timber Lake closes season with Rodgers and Hammerstein evening

August 22, 2012

By Bill Beard
Theater Critic

I love a musical! Usually I prefer a “book musical”; you know, one with a plot, a real story line. But once in a while, I find a “revue,” meaning “a compilation of lots of songs (often by the same composers) filling a full evening of entertainment.” That’s what Timber Lake Playhouse in Mount Carroll, Ill., has chosen to end their season with this week — a full evening of favorite numbers from the works of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, called appropriately: Some Enchanted Evening.

Of course, that means you are treated to beloved old favorites from South Pacific, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, The King and I, Cinderella, State Fair, Carousel and even lesser-known ones, such as Flower Drum Song, Allegro and Pipe Dream. I certainly can’t name every song, but in addition to all the solo numbers, there are some wonderful combination groupings, in which parts of several songs are tied into one medley and added to the list. The original concept for the show was created by Jeffrey B. Moss for the Jerry Kravat Entertainment Services, Inc., and certainly is one of the best compilations available.

All six of the performers are excellent, and Artistic Director James Beaudry has assigned numbers perfectly to give each one the opportunity to show his/her special talents, as well as to cover the wide spectrum of styles this show requires: romantic, dramatic and comedic.

Guest Artist Samantha Dubina handles some of the fun stuff with an absolutely charming, almost “elfin” sense of comedy, perfect for “Cockeyed Optimist” and “I Can’t Say No.” She is a delightful, all-around performer … singer, actor, dancer; and joined by the charismatic Henry McGinnis, one of the highlights of the whole evening was the “Don’t Marry Me Sequence.”

Where did this guy come from? I didn’t see Footloose, so I missed his leading role of Ren, but he is great! He has a sort of bright-eyed charm, which made his take on “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame” great fun, and an endearing earnestness that was perfect for “Younger Than Springtime”; his presence brightened even the group numbers.

Analisha Santini’s lush, full voice handled both the fun of “The Gentleman is a Dope”and the subtlety of “Something Wonderful” and “Hello Young Lovers”; and she looked absolutely gorgeous in a sensual designer gown.

This week, we were given the chance to hear much more of the singing of Dryden Meints, whose voice, of course, was perfect for “This Nearly Was Mine.” His standout moment, though, was the powerful and extremely difficult “Soliloquy,” from Carousel, in which he managed to instill both the dramatic strength and the touching softness required, and with a convincing depth and compelling sincerity.

Equally impressive was the work of newcomer Melissa Griffith, who added an authentic sophistication to the evening at all the right moments, such as “Out of My Dreams” and “If I Loved You,” but also displayed relaxed comfort and cool amusement in “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”

Add to this the piano artistry and singing voice of the sixth cast member, Kyle Branzel, who also served as musical director for the whole production, and you have a show that moved smoothly and swiftly, with effective transitions and pace, and just long enough to leave you with that wonderful satisfied feeling.

As I said, there are far too many songs to list individually (I counted more than 60 in the program), but let me repeat that some of the most wonderful moments of the evening are medley groupings; and it all moves so well that you will be left wanting more.

So go. This is the last show of Timber Lake Playhouse’s 2012 season. For information, call (815) 244-2035 or go to www.timberlakeplayhouse.com.

From the Aug. 22-28, 2012, issue

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