Score another triumph for Musical Theater Heritage as they unroll yet another fast-paced bonanza of musical theater gems, this time, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?,” the musical masterpieces of famed duo Lerner and Loewe.
A nearly sold out opening, Aug. 15, greeted the troupe of singers and musicians as the show began with strains from “Brigadoon,” the first of the collaborations by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick (Fritz) Loewe. While Rodgers and Hammerstein dominated the musical scene in New York Leaner and Loewe found a new niche and clawed their way onto The Great White Way with “Brigadoon” in 1947. “Brigadoon” ran for 581 performances, a long run for that era on Broadway.
“Brigadoon” was followed by “Paint Your Wagon,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Camelot.” In between, the classic film with their music Gigi swept up more Academy Awards that any other musical to date. Their star was blazing hot in the musical theater realm.
Narrator George Harter always gives insight and relatively obscure back notes to what happened before, during and after collaborative efforts come to fruition, yet this production offered a very different Harter as he stepped into the performance realm and performed as Professor Henry Higgins of “My Fair Lady” fame in delivering “Why Can’t the English?”
First up for the evening was their initial Broadway show, “Brigadoon” with Patrick Beasley performing the first number to set the stage and then followed by Justin McCoy and Ashley Wheat’s rousing and light “The Heather on the Hill.” Two other pieces from “Brigadoon” performed for the appreciative audience, “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” and the popular and light “Almost Like Being in Love..”
“Brigadoon” opened in 1947 and ran for less than 600 performances. Still, it established Lerner and Loewe as a Broadway success story and stoked the fires for their next show, 1951’s “Paint Your Wagon,” Harter explained to the audience how politically incorrect the show was and hinted that for those and many more reasons is never resurrected for current production. Still, the show produced a couple of memorable songs, “They Call the Wind, Maria,” “Paint Your Wagon,” and “I Talk to the Trees.” All were performed admirably by the stunningly voiced cast. Harter said the show was so poor and incorrect that MTH did not even create a poster/graphic for it. The show ran for 289 performances and has not been revised.
Next for the team was the musical adaption of the George Bernard Shaw comedy “Pygmalion” with the classic characters of Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle and along with them the now famous pairing of Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews to create the mis-match society opposites. “My Fair Lady” remains the masterpiece of the Lerner and Loewe collaborations. The show opened in 1956 and ran for more than 2700 performances. No revivals have been overly successful.
For this set, far and away, Lerner and Loewe’s masterpiece, songs included in “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” were “Why Can’t the English” (masterfully voiced by Harter), “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church,” and “On the Street Where You Live.” All of the music flooded the audience with memories of Julie Andrews on Broadway, Audrey Hepburn on screen, and Sexy Rexy Harrison on both platforms. However, the showstopper for the evening came when musical conductor Jeremy Watson performed “Get Me to the Church on Time.” Watson, the keyboard master, rocked the halls with his spirited musical performance that accompanied his performance surprising vocals. Watson was amazing and well received by the nearly capacity crowd for opening night.
The second act turned to Hollywood and the story behind the musical score for Gigi. The movie was a huge success, but Harter told the back story of how the song-writing duo had to bluff their way past movie moguls to get major parts redone to create the cinema masterpiece. While the movie was a well received blockbuster for the time, a later mounting for Broadway closed after only 107 performances and is generally forgotten.
Songs from this set included: “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “ I Remember It Well,” and the title song “Gigi.” All notable songs and performed by the noteworthy cast.
The final set for Act II consisted of the music of Lerner and Lowe’s final collaboration, “Camelot,” again a Julie Andrews classic on stage. This time Andrews was paired with Shakespearean actor Richard Burton as King Arthur. “Camelot” opened in 1960 and continued for nearly 900 performances.
Music from “Camelot” included “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight,” “Camelot,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” “If Ever I Would Leave You,” and “What Do the Simple Folk Do.” All of the “Camelot” music was well received, and Justin McCoy as Arthur was again a standout. His deep rich baritone sounds loud and clear on each and every song he sang.
Musical director Sarah Crawford did a beautiful job os selecting the precise voices for each song, and then surprised the audience with some unexpected changes, like the women singing most of “If Ever I Would Leave You,” and “I Talk to the Trees.” She added an up-tempo swing to “Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” and allowed McCoy to really belt “Maria.” Overall, the casting and performance of all vocalists helped propel the show to the top.
With such well known shown to select from, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” stands apart from other strong MTH production, because it carefully selected several songs from several hit Broadway shows and presented them with fun and flair. Outstanding vocals, always in abundance at MTH guarantees the audiences clamor for more. Shows like this will sell out.
The superbly talented cast includes: Patrick Beasley, Elizabeth Birger, Donna Dandino, George Harter, Justin McCoy, Linnaia McKenzie, Andrew Schmidt, Sarah Sommerer, Ashley Yvonne Wheat, Jeremy Watson (piano), Jeff Harshbarger (bass), and Ron Ernst (percussion).
Creative team: George Harter, executive director and MTH founder; Chad Gerlt, executive producer; Sarah Crawford, artistic director and music director; Jeremy Watson, assistant music director and show conductor; Audra Viele, stage manager; Shane Rowse and Kylor Green, lighting design; John Hileman, sound design; JD Mann, house manager; Nichole Boursaw, volunteer manager.
For information, show times and tickets, see the MTH website. Some shows may already be sold out. Plan ahead and do not be shut out.