Gershin’s ‘‘S Wonderful’ wonderful at Timber Lake.
By Sue Langenberg.
Final Timber Lake Playhouse show for the 52nd season, ‘’S Wonderful,’ opened last night as a Midwest premiere. The dreamy musical is a Gershwin stroll down memory lane with some 42 familiar songs.
The mere phrase “George and Ira” is harmonious in itself and leaves no one, young or old, without the influence of these brothers who took the 20th century and infused it with music decade by decade. Music and lyrics by the Gershwin brothers, conceived and written by Ray Roderick and musical arrangements by Rick Hi-Flores, the show has a nostalgic reach at every vibrato and dance step.
In his mere 38 years, George Gershwin accomplished oceans of music, as if to enter the world carrying notes on a staff. His most famous orchestrations were “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924), “An American in Paris” (1928) and “Porgy and Bess” (1935), a stunningly important opera of all time. He began as a “song plugger,” as one who would represent a music store and read anything put before him to give customers a sample to buy. That kind of youthful master of the ivories can be compared later to Leonard Bernstein or iconic Marvin Hamlisch (“A Chorus Line,” among many others).
Older brother Ira Gershwin was often called the “other Gershwin” because he was frequently overshadowed by the prolific brief career and life of younger George. Ira lived longer but came to collaborate with George on award-winning songs, “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
From the very opening trill (TLP reeds player Emily Bressler) of ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ ascending chills follow the ascending notes. It was an immediate audience grabber; you knew you were in the right place.
Following that, the show took the 20th century of Gershwin songs from 1924 through the present with the Golden Age of everything romantic and dreamy with breath-holding songs to fall in love all over again. It was a delightful mix of innocence and deeper desires.
The cast of TLP’s show consisted of five dynamic performers Sarah Larson (hysterical in “Unnecessary Farce”), Genna-Paige Kanango, Lexie Plath (both outstanding in “A Chorus Line”), Tim Wessel (choreographer for this show with Cameron Turner) and Zak McMahon (give this guy a dance step, any dance step and he can do it!) Perfectly cast, the five-some were the epitome of all that it takes these days to accomplish a stellar musical. They could sing, dance, perform and energize the house with magic vibratos.
A regular musical review might gush about highlights, notables or mentions as if to watch a certain performer rise. This one, however, was all highlights, all notables and all of everything that one could enjoy.
Directed by TLP’s company manager Courtney Crouse, best remembered for his most engaging performance in “Tuesdays With Morrie” earlier this season, the show had original sections of spoken script. Collaborating with TLP’s artistic director Jim Beaudry, he decided that segues between dialogue and song/dance were awkward at best.
So once cut, that left song to song and dance to dance, a musical marathon of stamina most admirably hauled off by these five most talented performers.
Wonderful show ‘’S Wonderful’ continues at Timber Lake Playhouse of Mt. Carroll and runs 11 more performances through matinee August 25. All evening performances are 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Saturday August 17 at 3 p.m., Sunday August 18 at 2 p.m., August 21 and 25 at 2 p.m. Group rates available. No performance on Monday August 19. Tickets go fast, and TLP is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, in the boonies of Mt. Carroll. Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information. Standing ovation for all shows this season! 2014 season tickets available now.