AN EVENING WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN AND LERNER & LOEWE. Musical director, Keith Herrmann; director, Charles Repole; pianists, Vicki Carter and Maggie Torre. With Steve Elmore, Elizabeth King, Marni Nixon, Martin Vidnovic, Laura Waterbury.
At the Terrace Theater through Nov. 15.
Things are looking up.
Right on the heels of the perfectly lackluster "Rhapsody in Gershwin" comes a second revue from New York's St. Regis Hotel, this one entitled "An Evening With Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe." Actually, it's two revues made into one -- each of those celebrated teams gets a quick act apiece -- and it is every bit as enjoyable as its predecessor wasn't.
The format remains the same. You'll still find a couple of grand pianos on the stage of the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, where the show began a two-week run last night. The same potted palms are still serving, less persuasively than ever, as decoration. And once again, five performers in evening dress stride out from the wings to sing a bushel and a peck of old standards.
But what a difference this cast makes. Even its weakest links -- Steve Elmore and Elizabeth King -- are solid, presentable performers. Up a notch or two is Marni Nixon, the ghost singer for Audrey Hepburn in the movie version of "My Fair Lady," who this time gets to deliver "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" in person. (Very nicely, too!) What puts this little revue over the top, however, are the powerhouse talents of Laura Waterbury and Martin Vidnovic.
Waterbury is one of those buxom, big-voiced women with wit in her eyes and brass in her voice, which does not prevent her from turning plaintive and injured, when a song -- "The Gentleman is a Dope," for example -- so dictates. She possesses gobs of good cheer ("Cockeyed Optimist"), spunk ("Show Me"), fervor ("What Did I Have") and, frankly, it's about time some farsighted composer sat down and wrote a Broadway musical for her.
Vidnovic, of course, was on Broadway last year in the revival of "Brigadoon," and it's easy to see why. Equipped with a majestic voice and a distinctly romantic personality, he combines these two seeming opposites -- effortlessness and electricity. His "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" is a playful exercise in casual seduction, while he virtually soars through "On the Street Where You Live." When he teams up with Waterbury for a comic duo, "How Could You Believe Me," you can slice the pizazz with a knife.
That number (from "Royal Wedding") is one of the few departures from the tried-and-true songs that constitute the bill. This is not an evening of musical discoveries, unless you missed out on "Carousel," "South Pacific," "The Sound of Music," "Camelot," "Gigi" and "My Fair Lady," in which case you are probably dead. Still, without forcing the songs to take new stances, there are some clever twists -- letting the women take "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" and having both men sing "Shall We Dance" to a befuddled King.
The staging by Charles Repole emphasizes the content of the songs, not some spurious footwork, which is just as it should be. One number links up easily with the next, and the evening floats by on a pure puff of melody. Almost before you know it.