Oldies and Goodies: "Let's Face the Music: A New Musical Revue," at the District Theatre through September 15 Print
Theatre - Reviews
Written by Thom White   
Monday, 09 September 2013 06:00

Wendy Czekalski, Sheri Olson, Bryan Tank, and Erin Lounsberry in Let's Face the Music: A New Musical RevueLet’s Face the Music: A New Musical Revue is a production of songs by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin, conceived and directed by Lora Adams, and performed by four of the best singers (and one of the best dancers) in the area-theatre community. While the tempo and energy of the numbers change, the District Theatre’s presentation maintains a mellow mood throughout the hour-long show, with the only glaring fault in Saturday's performance being that the piece wasn't also presented in a 1940s nightclub, so that the audience could complete the experience by stepping into the period presented on stage.

There isn't a storyline in this musical revue (which isn't surprising given that it is a revue), but Adams does include a sort of character-based theme, and character-based segues between most songs. The female singers – Wendy Czekalski, Erin Lounsberry, and Sheri Olson – take turns interacting romantically with the show’s only male singer, Bryan Tank, but mostly scoff at his fickle ways as he moves from one woman to another, settling mostly with Victoria-Rose Viren’s dancer.

Bryan Tank and Victoria-Rose Viren in Let's Face the Music: A New Musical RevueTank is in full, beautiful voice as he sings some of the composers’ best-loved works, including Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music” and the Gershwins’ “Funny Face.” Adams' choice to have Tank actually play an upright bass during his performance of the Gershwins’ “Slap That Bass” seems to slightly distract the singer from presenting the song with his usual vocal prowess, as his attention is split between singing and plucking the instrument (which, during Saturday's production, was sometimes out-of-tune against accompanist Marcia Renaud’s piano). But his dancing with Viren elegantly complements his vocals on Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” and “Isn’t It a Lovely Day,” and choreographer Cindy Ramos’ dance steps help create a perfect tone of charming simplicity.

From her first solo number – the rousing Porter anthem “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” – Sheri Olson, as expected, does not disappoint; her stunning voice fills the theatre space with both sound and energy. Her humor, meanwhile, later shines in the delightfully competitive interpretation of Porter’s “You’re the Top,” which she duets with Lounsberry as the two present the Anything Goes love song as a comical series of backhanded compliments. Olson is also enjoyable during her slightly inebriated performance, with Czekalski, of the Gershwins’ “Friendship.”

Sheri Olson, Wendy Czekalski, Bryan Tank, and Erin Lounsberry in Let's Face the Music: A New Musical RevueLounsberry, who is fantastic from this entertainment's beginning to end, is most delightful when she’s delivering Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” with a flirtatious sultriness, playfully eyeing audience members and working her gorgeous, sleeveless green gown and wrap (one of many stunning dresses worn by the ladies here) to her curvaceous advantage. Czekalski, who appropriately holds back on her vocals during the production's first half, finally lets loose during her take on Porter’s “Anything Goes,” playing with the slightly bawdy nature of the lyrics and treating the audience to her full, impressive voice.

And while she mostly joins Tank in several dance numbers, Viren (who does not sing during the revue) enjoys a balletic solo performance of the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful,” and presents her physical interpretation with grace and impressive balance. The same applies to the District Theatre’s Let's Face the Music: A New Musical Revue, with its decorum and finesse fitting the much-adored composers’ songs.

 

Let's Face the Music: A New Musical Revue runs at the District Theatre (1611 Second Avenue, Rock Island) through September 15, and more information and tickets are available by calling (309)235-1654 or visiting DistrictTheatre.com.


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