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A Grand Night for Singing

Joyce Stilson and Darryl Hart compare notes in "Voice Lessons."

A Grand Night for Singing is a musical revue of songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein that made an unlikely transfer from the cabaret setting of the “Rainbow and Stars” in Manhattan to Broadway back in 1993. MusicalFare is taking an uncharacteristic turn into the Golden Age of Broadway with a production of this delightful show, opening this week.

While MusicalFare is touting the songs in the show that come from the biggest Rodgers and Hammerstein hits—Oklahoma, Carousel, King and I, South Pacific, Sound of Music—for most of us who know A Grand Night for Singing, the grandest pleasures of this night of song are the tunes from lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein shows: Allegro, Me and Juliet, and Pipe Dream, or even the 1945 film State Fair (which provides the show with its title tune).

There was a time when Rodgers and Hammerstein were the emperors of Broadway. Even their flops offer musical delight. In these songs, you will hear echoes of other Richard Rodgers melodies and will be startled to hear reinforcement of the musical style he adopted when collaborating with Hammerstein that is entirely different from the urbane style of the years when he was writing with Lorenz Hart.

Another pleasure of A Grand Night for Singing is hearing signature Rodgers and Hammerstein songs placed in new contexts in a way that expands their meaning and serves to explain the colossal appeal of their songbook. Every song is a mini-play in its own right.

A Grand Night for Singing has been directed by Michael Walline and features Charmagne Chi, Maria Graham, John N. Kaczorowski, Katy Miner, and Tom Owen. The show plays through May 20 at MusicalFare Theatre (4380 Main Street, Amherst, 839-8540).

Voice Lessons

While it’s a grand night for singing at MusicalFare, it’s a delusional night of song down at the Alleyway Theatre, where the company is taking on Justin Tanner’s comedy, Voice Lessons.

This show follows the unlikely romance that develops “between a deluded community theatre actress and the over-educated vocal coach whom she hires to transform her into a star.” As you might expect, this Galatea “has no range, can’t sing softly, and sings off pitch, but the famed teacher takes her as a student when she offers triple scale and refuses to leave or take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Spoiler Alert: While the lessons are a laugh riot, your pity for the put-upon teacher will be tempered when his own dark and deranged nature is revealed.

The original 2009 Los Angeles production was presented at Zephyr Theatre and the cast featured the remarkable Laurie Metcalf of Steppenwolf Theatre Company/Roseanne fame, along with French Stewart. For Buffalo, the show, directed by Neal Radice, features Joyce Stilson, Darryl Hart, and Kim Piazza, and will run through April 21 at Alleyway Theatre (One Curtain Up Alley, 852-2600).