The incredibly tuneful and timeless legacy of American musical theater pioneers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II is saluted in Walter Bobbie’s 1994 Tony Award-nominated revue “A Grand Night for Singing,” fluidly staged and choreographed by Richard Croskey at the Dayton Playhouse.
Infused with romantic ambience and sophistication, “Grand Night” breezily spotlights the joy, sentimentality and wit that colored the dynamic duo’s groundbreaking collaboration, spanning 16 years (1943-1959) and 11 productions (“Oklahoma!” to “The Sound of Music”). Instead of adopting the engagingly anecdotal, composer-driven blueprint of “Side By Side By Sondheim,” the 1977 Tony Award-nominated revue that inserts facts and tidbits to create an expansive, eye-opening narrative, Bobbie links each song by varying relationship-driven themes such as budding love, hurtful rejection and parental tenderness. His decision isn’t conceptually substantive, especially for R&H fans desiring to know more about them as songwriters and producers, but is an accurate reflection of the title, a clear reminder that the music is paramount.
Consisting of 38 songs and an unnecessary intermission, “Grand Night” unfolds as a familiar and eclectic hodgepodge. As with most revues, some of my favorites didn’t make the cut (in this instance, the long list includes “A Cockeyed Optimist,” “A Fellow Needs a Girl,” “Getting to Know You,” “I Am Going to Like It Here,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “In My Own Little Corner,” “Mister Snow,” “My Lord and Master,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “That’s for Me,” “The Next Time It Happens,” “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’,” “You Are Beautiful,” “You Are Never Away,” “Younger than Springtime” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”). Still, I particularly admire the refreshing twists within Fred Wells’ intricate music arrangements, the obscure “All At Once You Love Her” from 1955’s “Pipe Dream,” and the five chestnuts from 1947’s underappreciated “Allegro,” particularly “I Know It Can Happen Again” and sublime “So Far.”
Croskey’s cast, backed by musical director Ron Kindell’s excellent orchestra complete with harp, cello and grand piano, is comprised of an admirable, cohesively interactive quintet. Carol Chatfield offers lovely renditions of the aforementioned “Allegro” tunes and a very heartfelt “Something Wonderful.” Kathy Clark winningly handles such strong character numbers as “A Wonderful Guy,” “The Gentleman Is A Dope” and “If I Loved You.” Patricia DiPasquale-Krul, who joins Chatfield and Clark for a jazzy version of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” pensively interprets “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” Tom Lehmann, sweetly partnered with DiPasquale-Krul for “When The Children Are Asleep,” supplies an absolutely striking, encore-worthy rendition of the gorgeous ballad “Love, Look Away,” lushly accented by cellist Anna Brossart. Matthew Bone is occasionally pitchy yet specifically succeeds with “This Nearly Was Mine.”
The prickly Rodgers and the sensitive Hammerstein might have been unlikely partners, but “Grand Night” warmly ensures their indelible handiwork, unabashedly heightening the thrill of beautiful mornings and enchanted evenings, will remain impactful for generations to come.
“A Grand Night for Singing” continues through Jan. 15 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 46 minutes; Act Two: 36 minutes. Tickets are $10-$15. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.org