Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
Hooray for Hollywood!
Written and Directed by Barbara Clippinger
Music Direction by Judy Hendrick, Choreography by Alexis Hoff
This is a fun entertainment, based around that there are so many well-known and wonderful songs that never won an Oscar; in fact they weren’t even nominated. Barbara Clippinger has woven a little story around this fact, with “Billie Baxter” a young screenwriter trying to make her name in the bright lights of Hollywood. Finally she gets the attention of “Mr. Goldman” who gives her the go-ahead to run auditions and produce a show.
That’s it so far as the story goes – Act 1 is the auditions, and Act 2 is the show which is very entertaining. We get to hear all those popular songs, plus we also see some fascinating old screen clips from the archives of Hollywood. Kat Tetrault gives an accomplished performance as Billie, and Peter Luciano is convincing as Mr. Goldman. Chet Beeswanger plays Mr Goldman’s bodyguard – of course with dark glasses.
I enjoyed Graham Miller in a cameo performance as “Danny” who manages the audition, while Judy Hendrick is accomplished on the piano and also demonstrates her beautiful voice. Highlights of this scene were the smooth baritone solo of Mac Morison singing All of Me, and the comic timing of Catherine Huff who makes us laugh as she fails her audition.
The second Act is a nostalgia trip through thirty years of Hollywood songs and dances. The pace and the staging are just great, and the set design and décor is very glamorous – credit to Barbara Clippinger and Beth Cathcart. Space does not permit me to mention all the songs – here is a brief selection. Patrick DuMouchel performs several song and dance numbers with great energy, notably Singing in the Rain and I Won’t Dance (with Alexis Hoff). Wendy Petersen gives us some magic with A Dream is a Wish, followed by Judy Hendrick with Some Day My Prince Will Come. Helena Feldstein sings and dances several romantic golden oldies, and Alexis Hoff demonstrates her skills with Put the Blame on Mame.
And I should mention the stage presence of Peggy Lord Chilton, playing an aging screen star who loves to sing and dance. The dance team is terrific, with Alexis Hoff, Heather Hunter and Val Jones performing with infectious energy, in particular during a wonderful Benny Goodman rerun of Sing Sing Sing. Other performers in the ensemble were Don DeCarl, Bob Hendrick, Irma Henson and Norm Whelpdale.
The Sound and Film (special credit for the old movie clips) were handled by Karen Lee and Jim Jack. The beautiful costumes were designed by Paulette Coburn, and Sherolyn Gregory and her team of dressers did a great job with all the rapid changes backstage. Altogether it was quite a show, and the audience, most of whom really remember those old movies, left humming and happy. Congratulations to Barbara Clippinger who put the whole thing together, and to Stage Manager Leslie DeCarl and Assistant Stage Manager & Production Assistant Ginger Thacker.
Next up is Social Security, a sophisticated comedyby Andrew Bergman, directed by Phil Shepherd. Opening on March 28, this will be the final show of what has been a memorable season. Let’s hope Season 50 will be as good or even better!