Keep An Ear Out For The Next ‘Grand Night Of Singing’

CUBA – The Olean Community Theatre is conducting a tour of theaters in Western New York, performing a collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best-known works titled ”A Grand Night for Singing.” The music was arranged by Fred Wells, and orchestrated by Michael Gibson and Jonathan Twick.

The company performed Friday evening in Cuba’s beautifully renovated Palmer Opera House. It was announced that this was the first touring production to play the theater in more than a century.

The company was made up of five men and five women. All were talented and attractive, and their formal costumes added elan to the evening. They varied widely in age and in vocal range, and they did the material proud, from the romantic ”We Kiss in a Shadow,” and ”The King and I,” to the comic ”I Can’t Say No,” and ”Oklahoma,” to the dramatic ”My Little Girl,” and ”Carousel.”

The performing artists were Angela Emley, Cristin Hopkins, Adam Losey, David Merwine, Jake Riggs, Rodney Stebbins, Charlotte Stock, Boris Van Druff, Tanaka Van Druff and Marcia Wymer.

The show was a well chosen collection of 33 musical numbers. There was no speaking and no plot line. One or more singers would step out and sing a song, then another single or group would rise from the 10 chairs to the audience’s left and begin the next song. The result gave the singers no opportunity to build a character in the audience’s minds, but it all flowed very fast and interest remained high.

The works performed were not only the universally-known, popular works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it was sprinkled with works from lesser-known shows, such as “Allegro,” ”Me and Juliet,” and ”Pipe Dream.” The marriage of familiar hit with new discovery worked very well. One technique which seemed to work well for the arrangers was that often familiar songs were performed by members of the opposite gender from that which is expected.

Having a man sing, ”Shall We Dance,” for example, or a woman sing ”Some Enchanted Evening” brought just a bit of freshness to the familiar works.

The evening was accompanied by a stage band of five instruments which played very well, although the accompaniment rarely played the melodies of the songs. Instead, they chorded accompaniment with the result that if a singer did go awry from the tune it lasted longer than it would have had someone been playing the melody.

The result was very entertaining, and obviously the audience was enjoying it very much. The show was scheduled to be performed in Jamestown at the Willow Bay Theater, but it has been postponed until a later day. If it comes our way, I recommend it enthusiastically.