Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream is musically enchanting

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Conceived, created, and directed by Peter Jorgensen. Presented by Patrick Street Productions. At the York Theatre on Thursday, February 6. Continues until February 16

Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream is an evening of beautiful music, gorgeous voices, and questionable theatricality.

Peter Jorgensen, who conceived and directed this project, offers 39—count ’em, 39—tunes from the songbook of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Starting in 1943 with Oklahoma!, Rodgers and Hammerstein firmly established musical theatre as an art form, and many of the songs in Out of a Dream offer such an intoxicatingly pure combination of music and emotion that just typing their titles gives me goose bumps: “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Hello, Young Lovers”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

The cast of five that Jorgensen has assembled gives this material its delicious due. Warren Kimmel is one of the best musical-theatre performers you’re ever going to see. He’s got an open heart, a big, warm voice, and miraculously invisible technique. He makes everything he does—including floating the high notes—look effortless. Caitriona Murphy is also a pro, a true singing actor. When she sings, “I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm” (“It Might as Well Be Spring”, State Fair), it’s as if she’s surprising herself with the aptness of the metaphor, which drives the feeling deeper. Upcoming tenor Sayer Roberts and young soprano Kazumi Evans are also gifted and sure-footed. And Kaylee Harwood is going to be a star. Her voice, which is velvety at the bottom, transforms into silvery liquid at the top. On opening night, her rendition of “Something Wonderful”, which is from The King and I, was transporting: listening was like falling in love.

Jorgensen’s organization of the material doesn’t always work, though. Almost all of the songs are about romance, and in his staging, Jorgensen vaguely indicates a narrative that involves a lot of pairing and splitting up. But this implied story is confusing and repetitive: in Act 1, it feels like one of the women is almost always hanging out in the background looking jealous.

Musically, some of the mashups work—as in the blending of “Younger Than Springtime” from South Pacific and “All at Once” from Pipe Dream—but too often it feels like somebody has set the CD player to Shuffle. And a lot of the less familiar tunes, notably the selections from Allegro, are less familiar for a reason.

Some numbers are successfully reimagined. Here, “Maria” from The Sound of Music seems to be being delivered by a perplexed mom rather than the Mother Superior. And touchingly, “We Kiss in a Shadow”, from The King and I, is recast with two men. There isn’t enough of this reframing to give this project a raison d’être, however.

Jessica Bayntun and Amir Ofek’s costume designs, an awkward combination of tweeds for the men and ’50s eveningwear for the women, drove me nuts. The women’s outfits made them look far too uptight for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s feisty heroines.

Out of a Dream is lovely to listen to, but because it fails to create a compelling context for its songs, the evening gets long.

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TheatreGal
I have to say that the We Kiss in A Shadow moment between the two men was so not needed. The show was so smooth, elegant and fun, then it just got weird, and made everyone feel uncomfortable. I'm gay and I was even uncomfortable! It might have worked better if the age difference between the actors were closer. But it was disturbing to see this young teenage kid being wooed by his schoolteacher.
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Rating: -1
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