Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
For the opening of its Summer Cabaret Series, Florida Studio Theatre offers Come Fly With Me: The Sammy Cahn Songbook.
Sammy Cahn wrote lyrics, mostly for Hollywood in the golden age of movie musicals. His two most important composer partners were Jule Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen, accounting for almost all the songs represented here. His songs represent a nice chunk of the repertoire that I love best, so I entered the theater with "High Hopes" (one of his Academy Award winning songs). Unfortunately, this revue barely rises to the level of cruise ship entertainment.
When assembling a revue of this nature, it is of utmost importance to respect the material you are saluting, and I don't think that is the case here. Too many of Cahn's best songs are given short shrift while lackluster secondary material gets too much stage time. Cahn won four academy awards but two of those songs, "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "All the Way" are ill treated with gimmicky presentations, "High Hopes" is allowed to become an audience singalong, not inappropriate, and "Call Me Irresponsible" is nowhere to be found. Other major Cahn gems such as "It's Magic" and "I'll Walk Alone" are reduced to a single chorus or a chorus and a half while lesser songs such as "Style" (a novelty number for Sinatra, Crosby, and the others from Robin and the 7 Hoods) gets more than three minutes of time.
Arrangements are credited to the great Peter Matz ("The Carol Burnette Show" and several of Barbra Streisand's early songs, including "People") in an announcement from musical director Wayne Moore, but this does not represent his best work.
No one is credited as director, a place where a strong eye could have been used. There is a running gag of competition for stage time between the men, which grows old long before they are done with the conceit. None of the singers have a clear sense of the style these songs were conceived in; the men especially are afraid of letting loose and really crooning some of them. The women don't allow themselves to fall into such noxious patterns, but neither do they offer a rendition of one of these great songs that made me think, "yes that is how it goes." Choreography, again un-credited, is utterly banal, right out of a "Love Boat" episode.
Music director Wayne Moore is the best thing on the stage, and I was aware of his abilities from past work. Unfortunately, instead of allowing him to play the whole show, thereby bringing some sense of style to it, much of the music is synthesized, far less interesting than Mr. Moore's piano only accompaniment.
As much as I love the body of work that Come Fly With Me represents, sitting through the 90 minutes was almost painful, so much of it was so badly conceived.
Florida Studio Theatre presents Come Fly With Me: The Sammy Cahn Songbook through July 17, 2016, at the Court Cabaret 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
Music Director/Accompanist: Wayne Moore