Sing a happy tune

Village Players Broadway Snapshots hits all the right notes

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DOUG DEUCHLER

Broadway Snapshots, the new musical revue at Village Players Theatre, is slick and enjoyable. They got it right this time around.

All the performers are talented, the voices blend nicely, and there's a wide variety of music?#34;a tapestry of tunes ranging from familiar hits from the fabled "golden years" of Cole Porter and George Gershwin to newer, lesser known numbers from more recent shows like Avenue Q and Jekyll and Hyde. There are frequent mood and costume changes. The nicely lit set looks sophisticated.

Except for the fact that nobody's topless and slot machines aren't dinging in the lobby, you almost feel like you're enjoying a cabaret show at some small Las Vegas nightclub. It's colorful, fast-paced and highly entertaining.

Assembled by company members Jack Crowe, Carl Occhipinti and others, this delightful musical scrapbook presents over 30 show tunes. Frankly, I was frightened when I first glanced at the list in the program. But the numbers are nicely trimmed and focused. There's never an elaborate set-up or extra choruses, as was so often the case when much of this music was first performed on Broadway.

In the early days of the American musical there was little difference between a "book" show and a musical revue. Today, of course, the latter is strictly a collection of songs plucked from multiple sources. There's no storyline, just some patter and a unifying thematic thread tying the whole thing together. The theme of Broadway Snapshots seems to be the multiple moods and styles of love.

Director and choreographer Alison Henderson has assembled an outstanding, diverse cast of four men and five women who charm and energize us with their retro Broadway montage. They've got electrifying stage presence as they really "sell" their songs. There are no uneven voices or embarrassing moments. The performers seem to be having so much fun that it's quickly contagious. It's like you're watching one of those warm-hearted old variety shows we no longer have on television. (Everyone now seems to require more "reality," but don't get me started on that.)

Village Players favorite Betty Scott Smith, with her red feather boa and dangly earrings, opens the show with a flirtatious, sarcastic song from Applause: "Welcome to the theater, you fools," she sings. "You'll love it so."

Dawn Hommowun and Kamaran-Alexis Madison are especially fun in a couple of linked numbers that start with the two women looking drab and forlorn as they stand over wash baskets folding laundry together. Suddenly they strip away their frumpy housecoats to reveal sexy chanteuse attire as they begin to belt their numbers. Hommowun shines with "If My Friends Could See Me Now" from Sweet Charity and Madison really works the room with "All That Jazz" from Chicago.

Smith and Herbert Porter are sweet and classy with "I Remember It Well" from Gigi. It's great fun as these two old pros, dressed in sophisticated formal wear, recall past events completely differently.

Jim Keating is a good time as a nerdy narrator who drops by occasionally to provide bits of background info and patter. At one point Porter reels him in with his microphone cord while Keating's droning on about the history of musical theater.

When Porter stepped out to sing "Old Man River" from Show Boat, I cringed. Too often in the past the standard was presented in a patronizing, sentimentalized manner. But Porter's delivery is proud and powerful. He puts a spin of defiant survival on the Jerome Kern classic.

Actually, all the performers pump fresh energy into lots of old tunes. There's a trio of Gershwin hits that are especially fine. Barry Norton presents "Somebody Loves Me" and Mary Nigohosian does "Embraceable You." Anthony Apodaca gives a new twist to "He Loves and She Loves" from Funny Face.

Janene Bergen delivers a graceful, soaring rendition of "If I Loved You" from Carousel. Nigohosian and Hommowun are hilarious with "Marry the Man Today" from Guys and Dolls. Apodaca is dynamic with "All I Need Is the Girl" from Gypsy. He does some fine hoofing, too.

Tony Millard, the on-stage pianist, was identified on a slip tucked into the program but the other musicians?#34;perched up in the gallery?#34;were not credited.

There are cuttings from several plays thrown into the mix, too. There's a piece of Neil Simon's early hit comedy, Barefoot in the Park, and a slice of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Smith is delightful as the dotty spiritualist Madame Arcati in the latter. But these dramatic snippets slow the flow and disrupt the musical momentum that's been building.

Nick Sula provided the lively musical direction. Julie E. Ballard created glowing lighting. Scott Pietruszka designed the smart-looking set, complete with marquee lighting and a marbleized floor. Jennifer Zielinski did the costumes. The show has a classy look. There's variety in the performers, the music and the attire.

Broadway Snapshots successfully presents an evening of escapism. There are kicklines and punchlines, a disco ball that casts its dazzling, dancing light upon the audience, and a constantly regrouping ensemble that gives us their all as they create musical magic. The numbers are well staged. Humor is woven into almost every interlude. It's a delightful show that never takes itself too seriously or overstays its welcome.

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