Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
A Baby Boomers' Toast to Broadway
Also see Mary's review of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Conceived and directed by Gary Giocomo, A Baby Boomers' Toast to Broadway is a revue that pops up from time to time at various Las Vegas venues. This month, it filled a slot in the Super Summer Theatre's Off-Season Series. The production features a quintet of baby boomer-aged entertainers paying tribute to popular Broadway shows from the 1950s, '60s, and '70sincluding such favorites as Guys and Dolls, Hello, Dolly!, Man of La Mancha, and A Little Night Music.
It's pleasant to hear tunes from memorable shows, although the revue format always leaves one longing to hear the songs in their original context. This is especially so if one is unfamiliar with a particular song; the emotional impact of a work originally composed for a traditional American musical depends in large part on knowing what exactly has driven the character to break into song.
Overall, this production feels disjointed. The bare black stage is festooned with nine large reproductions of posters for various Broadway musicals. As the audience filters in, these colorful visualscombined with the sight of an on-stage bandgenerate a certain level of excitement and expectation. Unfortunately, that excitement never materializes. And oddly, not one of the shows depicted in the posters is actually represented by a musical number in the revue.
Of course, there are plenty of other great shows in the musical canon, and many of them are represented here. One would hope that songs from some of the most popular musicals in history would be introduced with an appropriate sense of history and respect for the songwriters. But the introductions are hit-or-miss. Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim are mentioned with awe, but selections by Frank Loesser, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe go uncredited, and the song "Class"written by the taboo-busting Kander and Ebbis attributed to "Bob Fosse's Chicago."
There is no particular structure or progression to explain the selection or sequencing of songs. The two songs from Funny Girl are performed far apart in the set list, for no apparent reason, again with no mention of their songwriters.
And while most of the shows represented here fit the baby boomer historical theme, act two's "Toast to Walt Disney" comes out of nowhere. Disney is a relative newcomer to Broadway. Several of the songs featured here are from Disney's first stage musical, Beauty and the Beast, which had its Broadway premiere in 1994. (Even the underlying film was released in 1991.) By then, some baby boomers were grandparents. Yet the performers disconcertingly refer to this as music from their childhoods. The selections from Pinocchio, Snow White, Mary Poppins, and Cinderella are more historically appropriate, but these were Hollywood musicals. Only the latter two have reached Broadway at all (and not until 2006 and 2013 respectively), and the Broadway version of Cinderella had absolutely nothing to do with Disney. It originated as a 1957 television film, and had a completely different score by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Hello, In My Own Little Corner, good-bye, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.
At the performance reviewed, two of the performers, Gary and Jenny Giocomo, were out sick. The remaining threeJoy Demain, Garry Douglas, and Jay Josephannounced that they would soldier on, using sheet music where necessary to cover the numbers normally performed by their absent counterparts. While it would be nice to report that the performance exemplified the true spirit of "the show must go on," that was not entirely the case. Seasoned professionals that they are, the performers did just fine with sheet music in hand. What they failed to disclose, however, was that a number of songs would be cut entirely. As a result, the evening was disappointingly truncated. The production would have been better served if some different material had been cuta sequence of particularly unfunny vaudeville jokes sucked the air from the room and was completely at odds with the theme of celebrating some of Broadway's greatest songwriters.
All three performers convey their enjoyment of the Broadway classics, but the production overall feels static. The understated Garry Douglas is at his best in the more soulful solos, such as I Am What I Am, but his somber demeanor makes him appear lifeless in the ensemble numbers. Jay Joseph, a stylish crooner, brings boyish charm to each of his numbers. As the sole female in the downsized ensemble, Joy Demain carries the burden of all of the high notes, and not surprisingly shows signs of vocal strain.
Although the current production closes today, hopefully A Baby Boomers' Toast to Broadway in its next incarnation will present a full complement of performers and a revitalized concept of what it means to raise a toast.
Keyboards: Pat Demain, Dean Balan