Revue celebrates musicals of Rodgers & Hammerstein

The music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II was the soundtrack of Pat Foltz’s childhood.

Her parents endlessly played the cast recordings for the duo’s musicals when she was growing up.

Foltz will get to present the songwriters’ greatest hits and lesser-known songs when Youngstown Playhouse stages the musical revue “A Grand Night for Singing” starting Friday for a two-weekend run.

“I really, really love this version,” Foltz said of the show, which appeared on Broadway in 1993-94. “They just selected songs from the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook. A lot of the songs have been rearranged in a very jazzy, cabaret, Manhattan Transfer kind of way that’s a lot of fun to do with these songs. You have males singing songs a female sang in the musical. It’s a whole different take.”

The duo is one of the most acclaimed songwriting teams in musical theater history with a resume that includes such standards as “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “State Fair,” “South Pacific,” “The King & I,” “Cinderella” and “The Sound of Music.”

“I probably love ‘South Pacific’ more than any of them,” Foltz said. “I think it was pretty progressive for its day, the whole interracial relationship. ‘You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” is a really progressive song.”

Despite the respect for the duo’s work, Foltz said those musicals don’t get staged as often as they should.

“So many theaters cannot to do the big Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals anymore,” she said. “They don’t have the money, they’re so politically fraught, you really can’t do them. But some of these songs are just so fun that they stand alone. Even if you don’t know Rodgers and Hammerstein, it’s fun to hear these songs. This revue has songs from show I didn’t know, smaller shows that were never very big.”

Foltz and music director Matthew White will lead a six-member cast featuring James Major Burns, Connie Cassidy, Leah Ifft, Trevail Maurice, Mark McConnell and Kathleen Sanfrey.

“There is huge diversity in this cast,” Foltz said. “You have people like me, who grew up with Rodgers and Hammerstein, and younger people who didn’t know them at all, had no concept of the originals.”

The age range of the cast influenced some of her decisions on how she allocated the songs, but the assignments weren’t bound by the age or gender of the characters who sang the songs in the musicals.

“The fact that a 60-some-year-old woman gets to do ‘Cinderella’ songs is fun,” Foltz said.

The revue includes such familiar songs as “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “I Cain’t Say No” and “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” from “Oklahoma;” “Honey Bun,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific;” “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “Shall We Dance” and “I Have Dreamed” from “The King and I;” and “If I Loved You” and “My Little Girl” from “Carousel.”

The live orchestra, which is being underwritten by the Monday Musical Club Fund of the Youngstown Foundation, will be performing on stage with the singers. White also designed the set with Ellen Licitra as lighting designer, Johnny Pecano as technical coordinator and Jeanine Rees as stage manager.

“I wanted a lot of levels (for the set) because I like them visually,” Foltz said. “The only nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein that we did is a gazebo in one corner that serves as the castle in ‘Cinderella,’ the carousel in ‘Carousel,’ the gazebo in the shows that have one. That’s sort of the only touch other than an open stage on different levels.”


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