Leiber and Stoller wrote over 70 hit songs, mostly in the '50s, recorded by a multitude of artists including Elvis and The Coasters. About 40 of these songs were compiled into a musical revue that debuted on Broadway in 1995 and ran for five years. The show was revived a few years ago Off-Broadway, a production that was recreated at the Ordway in 2019. What I love about this musical is that it doesn't try to create some silly story to tie all of the songs together with cheesy dialogue (i.e., the jukebox musical). In fact there's no dialogue at all, just continuous music. But the fun thing is that each song is a mini story unto itself (as good songs are, and these are good songs). The staging creates a sense of relationships among the cast as they're telling these separate little stories in each song, that together combine to form a loose story of a group of old and new friends hanging out at a bar. No words needed, other than Jerome Leiber's clever lyrics combined with Michael Stoller's catchy tunes.*
|Uchenna Korus (photo by Molly Weibel)|
This production is set in the '90s, which doesn't really matter, and you wouldn't know it except for the fashion and the pre-show music. The idea is clear - a bunch of old friends gathering again and reminiscing, as they're renewing, ending, or making new relationships. The set (designed by Sadie Ward) includes an enclosed bar space, chock full of memorabilia, with a cozy sitting area on the roof reached by a spiral stair, and descended from, for the young and brave, via a firefighter's pole. The fabulous five-piece band (including the music director who also plays some percussion) is seated onstage on a raised platform, making them part of the show. The set allows for many different staging areas, and the director uses all of them, keeping the show moving. But the center of the stage is left open for this large cast to get together and dance, with some fun choreography that allows for different movements amongst the cast, making it feel like a casual get-together of friends rather than a performance by professional dancers. The entire cast is onstage for most of the show, sitting and chatting with each other if not participating in the current song, bringing authenticity to the relationships in the group.
It was a long and bumpy road for Lyric Arts to arrive here, but the results of their efforts show in this inclusive, welcoming, entertaining show. Check out a clip of highlights below, and then click here to get your tickets.