In Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream, Director Peter Jorgensen has assembled five of the strongest, most vibrant voices this side of heaven to take us on a journey sampling 39 classics of the American musical songbook. The most hummable tunes from Carousel, Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, and Song of Music are supplemented by some of the best of R&H’s lesser known work. Indeed, one song was included in every one of their 11 collaborations.
Through a theatrical stitching of the tunes we experience what almost – particularly in the first hour – conjures a new musical comprised of the old songs. Using simply a park bench to anchor the action, most songs are scored to introduce the next song as the cast moves around and through the stage making the overall arc of the presentation a mostly consistent delight.
Top notch-sound design by Bradley Danyluk allows every word to come at us in the highest fidelity while Lighting Designer Jeff Harrison bathes the stage in a near full palette of mood enhancing gels and lumen intensities.
The solid four-person orchestra, under Nico Rhodes’ musical direction, sounded note perfect as it played through his arrangements. Though small in number, the orchestra’s sound was big and lush.
As good/great as the songs are they would be near nothing without the right folk putting voice to them. Sayer Roberts was simply superb. He sang flawlessly, with passion and charm throughout.
In dramatic snippets during If I Loved You (from Carousel), he had all the swagger and charisma of a young Gordon McRae. The three female cast members were nearly as strong. Kazumi Evans sang sweetly and acted with a kind a wide-eyed innocence when called upon. Kaylee Harwood seemed somewhat underused but when she was allowed to show her stuff, most particularly in I Have Confidence (from The Sound of Music), her star shone brightly.
Caitriona Murphy has a crystal clear voice that only got stronger as the evening progressed. Moreover, she carried off the several comic elements handed to her with gusto. It will come as no surprise that stage veteran Warren Kimmel was solid throughout. In particular, his big number Soliloquy (from Carousel) was outstanding as he acted and sang his way through the probably most challenging tune R&H ever conceived. Just brilliant.
The production is not without its problems. While Act 1 flows in a near seamless way, Act 2 seems more a patchwork of unrelated material. Indeed, Act 2 gets off to a slow start with Allegro (from the production of the same name), when probably a livelier semi-production number such as June is Bustin’ Out All Over, would have better showcased the ensemble.
Much of Carousel’s other material was also omitted to allow for the lesser works to meet the self-imposed quota of a song from each play. Case in point: What did Everybody’s Got a Home But Me (from Pipe Dream) really add to the audience’s enjoyment?
Lastly, maybe it was considered politically correct to have Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Roberts take on gay personas as they sang We Kiss In a Shadow (from The King and I). Unfortunately the performers appeared ill-at-ease and the staging was awkward. Pandering to the queer community, in Vancouver at least, is completely unnecessary and is long past being cool.
These few quibbles aside, Out of a Dream is a solid and enjoyable 160 minutes (including intermission). It would be an apt Valentine’s present to those you love and to those who love musical theatre.
Out of a Dream continues through February 16 at Vancouver’s York Theatre. Photos by David Cooper.