The Ordway Center's latest installment of its Broadway Songbook® concert series hit the stage with a few old friends, a new face or two, and some surprise antiques in the attic. This particular incarnation, featuring songs by the late Broadway duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green, will likely inspire more than a few searches for old recordings on YouTube.
The concert, hosted by the Ordway's James Rocco, shuffled rapidly through the powerhouse writer duo's catalog, visiting songs familiar and stranger. Rocco's song introductions were spiced with entertaining bits of Comden-Green trivia, and the evening passed quickly. Often a glimpse of a less well-known show kindled a desire to hear more, but with only a few exceptions this was not satisfied as the evening moved from show to show. A few costume and staging touches enlivened the performances by a large cast of singers.
Comden and Green wrote some exceptionally clever lyrics, which would have been lovely to hear with less guesswork. Throughout the evening, audience members craned their heads towards the stage as they strained to make out the words; whispered "what did he/she says" were common, even amongst the younger crowd. This appeared to be the result of poor speaker placement (chosen more for visual inobtrusiveness than effective coverage), incorrect headset mic placement (many were noticeably jutting off in the wrong direction or placed too far from mouths), and diction calibrated for a much smaller space–or, at least, better-placed mics.
Acoustical issues aside, there was much that was entertaining. Although Regina Marie Williams was absent due to illness, the rest of the cast leaped into action to cover her numbers, even poking fun at some of the trials of sightreading a patter song off the score. Performances by Carl Schoenborn ("Captain Hook's Waltz"), Erin Schwab ("If"), and high schooler Amasia Gordon ("Being Good") were especially well done.
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