Maurice Sims thinks of “Some Enchanted Evening – the Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein” as an evening of “simple grandeur.”
“It’s a timeless show. We’re trying to create the atmosphere of a (vintage) nightclub like the Copacabana where five performers in formal dress take songs out of their usual context and give them their own interpretations,” says Sims, who is choreographing as well as co-directing with Christi Moore.
“Everything is about the music. There isn’t really a story. There’s no dialogue. But there is a logic to the way the songs follow each other,” Sims says. “The people aren’t playing roles (familiar from the Broadway classics) as such, they are playing characters. I think there is a difference.”
The musical revue, crafted by Jeffrey B. Moss from more than 35 familiar and hummable R&H songs, opens Friday and runs through Aug. 23 at Crown Uptown Theatre. The revue is drawn from classics like “South Pacific,” “Carousel” and “The King and I” as well as lesser-known works such as “Allegro” and “Cinderella.”
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Bringing the music to life in a sort of play-within-a-play are Luke Walker, Sophia Macias, Austin Stang, Paula Makar and Brittney Morton as a traveling troupe at various points in their respective careers. Providing accompaniment on twin baby grand pianos in the middle of the stage are music director Rich Bruhn and Joan Ehresman.
Although the characters don’t have names, Walker says he plays “the archetype of every older Rodgers & Hammerstein leading man” from “Carousel’s” Billy Bigelow to “Oklahoma’s” Curly.
“When I play him, I think of John Raitt rather than Gordon MacRae. I go back to the original Broadway rather than the movies,” says Walker. “I picture us as performing in a supper club like the Cafe Carlyle in the 1950s after the shows have let out. We feel the songs, not as the original stage characters, but as ourselves.”
Walker’s favorite musical moments include “Soliloquy,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and the hauntingly romantic duet “If I Loved You.”
The other half of that duet is sung by Sophia Macias, who describes her persona as “the typical ingenue who definitely enjoys attention.” She is also a naive romantic like Julie of “Carousel” or Laurey of “Oklahoma!”
“She is the youngest in the cast, which I can relate to. She is also flirty and fickle about guys. She sees a guy and thinks he’s cute but also likes the next cute guy she sees – like most young girls,” Macias says with a laugh. Besides her love duet with Walker, her favorite moments include “Out of My Dreams,” “Wonderful Guy” and “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
Stang sees his character as a “Gene Kelly heartthrob” who is “the charmer among all the ladies.” From his songs, he’s also like comic sidekick Will Parker from “Oklahoma!” and romantic bumbler Sammy Fong of “Flower Drum Song,” with a touch of heroic Lt. Joe Cable from “South Pacific.”
“He’s younger and less experienced than the leading man, but he’s very confident – maybe a little cocky – and very into himself. He believes he can do anything. He’s also a bit of a flirt. I can relate to that because I like to be flirtatious,” Stang says. Among his songs are his all-time R&H favorite, “Younger Than Springtime,” and the rousing “Nothin’ Like a Dame.”
Makar plays the mature woman in the cast, one who would likely be cast as Anna in “The King and I” or Aunt Eller of “Oklahoma!”
“She’s been doing this a long time. She’s experienced. She’s self-aware. She’s been through a lot of loves and losses. She’s done it all and is at the point where she’s wondering what’s left,” Makar says. “She is also probably a little jealous of the younger actors because they still have their whole careers stretching out ahead of them.”
For her part, Makar wends her way through such poignant ballads as “Love Look Away” and “Something Wonderful” and the deliciously cynical “The Gentleman Is a Dope.”
“I just love those smoky tunes,” Makar says.
Rounding out the quintet is Morton, who describes her character as between the other two women in age and experience. Think of her as sort of a Nurse Nellie from “South Pacific” or Ado Annie from “Oklahoma!”
“She’s beyond being an ingenue, but she isn’t jaded about show biz yet. She is still hopeful and looking forward to lots of opportunities in a long career,” says Morton, who songs include “Cockeyed Optimist,” “My Little Corner of the World” and “I Have Dreamed.”
“I’m at that point in my career, so I can definitely identify with her,” Morton says. “I bring my own personal chemistry to the story to give you glimpses into her life.”