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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites on stage at Actors’ Summit

10/17/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Hope Caldwell, Justin Williams, Shani Ferry, Jay Hill and Laura Best star in Actors’ Summit Theater’s “A Grand Night for Singing.”
Photo courtesy of Actors’ Summit Theater
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Actors’ Summit Theater’s “A Grand Night for Singing” is simply grand.

The folks at Actors’ Summit pulled out all the stops and brought a grand toe-tapping musical revue to the stage. No, this isn’t a scripted play. This musical revue brings about 35 songs by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein (lyrics) back into our minds.

The Broadway production was conceived by Walter Bobbie, with musical arrangements by Fred Wells and orchestrations by Michael Gibson and Jonathan Tunick.

The local production is performed by six talented performers.

Musical Director Deborah “Ingy” Ingersoll accompanied the singers on a grand piano, which was placed center stage.

The singers included Laura Best, Hope Caldwell, Shani Ferry, James (Jay) Hill and Justin Williams.

Best is performing on the Actors’ Summit stage for the first time. She was especially good singing “Something Wonderful.” She contributed a great deal of energy to the songs that were sung by the three women or by the entire ensemble.

Caldwell was at her best singing the spicy song “I Cain’t Say No,” from “Oklahoma!”

Ferry has been a regular at Actors’ Summit. She almost brought the house down when she sang “It Might As Well Be Spring.”

Hill has the ability to find the humor in some of the lyrics and bring that humor to the audience. When he sang “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” he evoked some laughter and a great deal of applause.

Williams has a strong, beautiful voice. He is able to modulate his voice from loud and brash to soft and tender. In addition to his fine voice, Williams has a face that seems to be made of rubber. He can lift one eyebrow and signal an emotion to the back row. He can go from happy to sad in half a measure. 

MaryJo Alexander directed this production and designed the costumes. The three women were dressed alike in black skirts and blouses. They were distinct because of their jewelry, necklaces and broaches. The men wore black tuxedos. Hill wore a green vest and Williams a black vest.

Choreographer Julie Goncy Shullo staged several big dance numbers, but her true skills came out with incidental dance steps that provided transitions.

“A Grand Night for Singing” merits your attention. This is a live theater experience at its best. This production is perfect for the entire family — grandparents to grade school children.

The show runs through Nov. 3 at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St. Note the parking lot has a security guard.

For ticket information, call 330-374-7568.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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