Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Florida Stage: Some Kind Of Wonderful (6 reviews)

Florida Stage invented their version of the summer musical back in 1996; a small cast, and a recognized canon of songs with mass appeal to reach a broader audience during the summer months. Their latest offering, Some Kind Of Wonderful, opened July 1, 2009. It's a collaboration between Bill Castellino and Christopher McGovern that celebrates the wide range of pop chart toppers from the 1960's.
“Motown, soul, pop, hard rock, surf music and country. Connie, Barbra, Elvis, Patsy, Ella, Frank. In those days, every station played every kind of music.”
Bill Castellino directed a cast that includes Michelle Pereira, Dana Dawson, Eric Collins, and Irene Adjan. Christopher McGovern directs the music.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

Another critic who can't seem to get to opening weekend, Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
Making the tired musical revue format fresh and exciting didn't seem possible. That is, until Some Kind of Wonderful! came along.
Castellino directed the production, while McGovern crafted the arrangements and serves as musical director and pianist. Their show is faithful to the period, but not slavishly so, tuneful, well-crafted and — here's the big surprise — belly laugh-inducing funny, when appropriate.
Band members McGovern, Jason Curry on reeds, Neel Shukla on percussion and Rupert Ziawinski on bass doesn't just plunk out accompaniments but are a dynamic part of the show. Curry's incredible saxophone riffs will give you chills.
Dawson undoubtedly is the most dazzling performer, with her charismatic stage presence and big, soulful voice. Adjan is not only a fine singer, but also a gifted comedian. Seeing her perform Crazy while wearing pink glasses, a bulky pink bathrobe and pink bunny slippers puts a whole new spin on the Patsy Cline tear-jerker. Pereira's rich, low voice stands out in sentimental numbers such as the passionate Besame Mucho.

Collins energizes upbeat tunes such as Who Put the Bomp and soars in the falsetto lead of Big Girls Don't Cry. Tarallo, who also plays guitar, excels in The Girl from Ipanema and other pensive numbers.
Don't miss Some Kind of Wonderful! It will light up your summer.
Kevin D. Thompson finally gets around to reviewing the show for the Palm Beach Post; I guess he's been doing CPR on the Post's listless PB Pulse.
Despite featuring tunes sung by the likes of The Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Elvis, The Supremes and Pasty Cline, Wonderful is barely a few notches above a high school musical.
The bouncy five-member cast gives it their all, but their voices simply aren’t strong enough to believably sell the songs they’re singing and to make the audience feel emotionally invested in them.
Still, the show is a perfect fit for South Florida’s more mature theatergoers who will no doubt enjoy walking down memory lane and feeling like they’re 18 again. But be warned: Some Kind of Wonderful is more like Some Kind of Just OK.
Apparently, Kevin is now grading the productions he reviews. Hint for ya, buddy- the teacher can't be late to class. This show opened two weeks ago - and you missed it. A whole bunch of other critics saw it. Critics are all supposed to be there the same night; perceptions might vary, but at least everyone should have the same show in front of them. And you were off somewhere else, and whatever you were doing, it wasn't reviewing opening night. You are in no position to start grading others, bucko. Kevin gets a D+ for his review (he did show up, which is more than can be said for the Sentinel).

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
The ensemble musical highlights of the show are well written and sung arrangements of "Goin' Out of my Head," "Having A Party," a Beatles' Medley called "Meet The Beatles" and a comedic "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Though revues should not truly have a star, Dana Dawson is the star of this production. She has a great singing voice and a delightful stage presence. Her flirtatious delivery of "My Guy" and soulful rendition of "At Last" are two of the most enjoyable moments in the show. If the rest of the show were of this caliber, Some Kind Of Wonderful would be one hot ticket. Unfortunately, Some Kind Of Wonderful flounders to find a throughline, follow a chronological order, or provide good thematic groupings.
Though this revue is set in the '60s, the singers can not agree on what year it is as they indiscriminately use current R&B and pop licks in songs without any stylistic grouping. Barry J. Tarallo is the most true to the correct style of the early '60s. His youthful voice is clear and effortless in songs like "Sealed With a Kiss" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." He also provides layers to the show by accompanying himself on guitar.
With so many "wonderful" songs from this time period from which to chose, the creators should have done a better job aligning the order of the songs to provide a better flow for this show.
In choreography, casting, costuming and transitions, this production of Some Kind Of Wonderful is desperately in need of revision to meet the standards previously set by both these creators and this theatre.
Ron Levitt reviewed for Florida Media News:
The show is a celebration of the music of this era – but in reality it goes well beyond the Camelot years. It is also a celebration of 2009 musical talent . The back-up musicians directed by Castellino are as much a part of the show as the five talented vocalists. McGovern at the piano (he’s also musical director), along with fellow musicians Jason Curry, Neel Shukla and Rupert Ziawinski are a powerhouse of sharps and flats as they offer some 40 unforgettable songs of 1960-65 vintage.
Irene Adjan, a South Florida gem, goes kooky (sunglasses and all) as she delivers Patsy Kline’ s Crazy and Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up is Hard to Do. She is a steamroller of energy as she belts out her numbers…….Tenor Eric Collins – making his South Florida debut – is amazingly true to life as he does more than justice to Travelin” Man or an Elvis Presley rendition, His range is truly a gift……Dana Dawson, direct from New York, belts out At Last and It’s My Party as if she had been there 45 years ago, She is sensational…..Michelle Pereira does Besame Mucho and Moon River with such emotion that the audience had to cheer loudly. She is a powerhouse singer….and Barry J. Tarallo, another South Florida beloved vocalist, has never been better, Not only is his voice superb but he shows off his talent as a guitarist in Your Cheating Heart and The Girl from Ipanema (a variation which would make Sinatra proud). Tarallo – in any other show – would be the show-stopper!! He is dy-no-mite!!!
Richard Crowell’s simple set emphasizes the music; Erin Amico ‘s costume design seems to have come out of the 60s complete with two-tone shoes and vibrant colors, and Jim Hunter’s lighting genius and Matt Kelly’s sound tuning become extra-important in several scenes.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
What audiences most want from a revue is the chance to listen to terrific singers backed by fine musicians. Some Kind of Wonderful! supplies that in abundance, though subtle moments are in short supply. Nonetheless, the multi-tasking McGovern (he's the musical director, deft arranger and pianist) helps the cast and his fellow musicians (Jason Curry, Neel Shukla and Rupert Ziawinski) deliver on that promise of a good time.
Adjan, Dana Dawson, Michelle Pereira, Eric Collins and Barry J. Tarallo are all powerhouse singers who can pull it back to blend beautifully, yet each gets a shining moment or two or more.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...there is plenty of entertainment to be had in this show. Director Castellino approaches much of the material with an affectionate sense of humor...
Adjan and Barry J. Tarallo often play nerdy high school sweethearts Tammy and Tad, she of the pink-framed spectacles, he of an automotive obsession over his Ford Falcon. Michelle Pereira seems to have been dealt the more histrionic torch songs or at least she turns such potential throwaway songs as Where the Boys Are and Besame Mucho into high drama.

Spiky-haired Eric Collins all but defines guys gone goofy with love (Goin’ Out of My Head, The Birds & the Bees) and winsome Dana Dawson vamps her way through the faux-tragic It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To) and Cupid.
Give McGovern credit for some fresh five-part arrangements, and for the wisdom to include frequent sensuous saxophone solo spots for Jason Reed. Rupert Ziawinski showboats well on bass, insinuating himself into a few dance numbers, and Neel Shulka rounds out the combo solidly on percussion.
Some Kind of Wonderful plays at Florida Stage through August 30, 2009.

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