A Grand Night for Singing – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were a well respected and successful team writing American musical theater, especially during the 1940’s and 1950’s, the “golden age” of that particular genre. They are credited with penning such glorious hits as “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music” as well as the television broadcast of “Cinderella.” Amassing thirty four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and two Grammy Awards, Rodgers and Hammerstein created a partnership labelled the greatest of the twentieth century. Although Rodgers originally worked with Lorenz Hart and Hammerstein partnered with Jerome Kern, they began collaborating on “Oklahoma,” based on Lynn Riggs’ “Green Grow the Lilacs” in 1943, creating what has been termed “a revolution in musical drama.”

To be caught up in the magical moments musically created by this popular pair, plan to go to Goodspeed Opera House on the Connecticut River in East Haddam until Sunday, November 28 as the delightful and delicious cabaret “A Grand Night for Singing: A Celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein” is being offered under a giant multi-colored moon, in a palette of colors to match the mood of the music.

These timeless tunes are being reinvented, refreshed and reimagined for this moment, with a new spin and a novel perspective that is sure to engage the audience, one that is so anxious to be enjoying live theater once again. Thanks to director Rob Ruggiero, these old favorites are being redressed in new costumes and attitudes, with romance clearly in the air. The majesty of “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific” follows the new born joy of “Something Wonderful” from “The King and I” while the dilemma of “I Cain’t Say No” from “Oklahoma” is paired with “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” from “The Sound of Music.”

More than thirty grand songs are presented by Jasmine Forsberg, Mauricio Martinez, Mamie Parris, Jesse Nager and Diane Phelan, with Kathryn Boswell and Kevin Schuering as standbys. Tunes like “Hello, Young Lovers” from “The King and I” and “That’s the Way It Happens” from “Me and Juliet” and “All at Once You Love Her” from “Pipe Dream” will introduce you to some of the pairs’ best known and lesser known creations. Favorites like “Honey Bun” from “South Pacific,” “Kansas City” from “Oklahoma,” “Shall We Dance” from “The King and I” and “My Little Girl” from “Carousel” are sure to please. Adam Souza directs the orchestra while Lainie Sakakura is the mistress of choreography.

For tickets ($29 and up), call the box office at 860-873-8668 or go online to goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.(with select performances at 6:30 p.m.). Patrons must show their fully vaccinated card and wear a mask. Seating will be socially distanced.

Come visualize in your mind pumpkins becoming golden carriages, women washing annoying men out of their hair and surreys sailing by with fringe on top as the imaginative cast brings you into the incredible musical world of Rodgers and Hammerstein. You may want to dance all night.