Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cleveland Play House: Backwards In High Heels: The Ginger Musical

(At the Cleveland Play House through January 30th)

A good and very dear friend* of mine is a strong, vivacious, "ginger" (her term) redhead who happened to celebrate her birthday on Monday. I offered a pair of tickets to Backwards In High Heels to celebrate the occasion. Tonight we met at The Cleveland Play House -- her first visit for a show in any of the Play House's venues -- and saw The Ginger Musical.

Confessing first that I'm familiar with Ginger Rogers's largely in name and peripherally in reputation I wasn't really sure what to expect for a story.

Story is, unfortunately, this show's weak point: The first act takes things a bit out of sequence and generally the pacing felt a bit on the slow side which allowed my attention to wander a bit much. The first act covers her childhood and career through Broadway, but felt a bit superficial and two dimensional at points -- and it also seemed that the information could have been covered in half the time. The second act, exclusively covering her career in film, by contrast, seemed much more in depth, better paced, and three dimensional.

Aside from the story it was an entirely enjoyable evening -- a true triple-threat cast who managed to act, sing, and dance with impressive energy both simultaneously and with impressive intensity through the show.

This was the fist time I can recall the Bolton Theater's orchestra pit (the existence of which I only discovered within the past year) and it was delightful to have a live orchestra playing for the evening. Particularly notable were some deliciously soulful notes that drifted up from the cello late in Act II.

So... Did this earn a spot in my "best theater" list... not really, was it an enjoyable escape from reality full of song, dance, and music...certainly. And a great way to celebrate my friend's birthday.

The Cast: Anna Aimee White, Ginger; Matthew Labanca, Marcus/Director/Fred Astaire/Others; James Patterson, Jack Culpepper/Hermes Pan/Jimmy Stewart/Others; Heather Lee, Lela; Benjie Randall, Joe/Bill McMath/George Schaffer/Lew Ayres/Others; Christianne Tisdale: Martha May/Louise/Ether Merman/Others.

The Band: Tim Robertson, musical director/keyboards; Thomas A. Fries, percussion, Joe Miller, trumpet; Rich Shanlin, reeds; Tim Powell, bass; Linda Atherton, cello.

*- Read not anything more into that. (It seems like every time I use the F word I have to clarify this for someone. I'm not taken at the moment.)

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