REVIEW: Orchestra, TCR create some enchanted evening

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Rodgers & Hammerstein classics get extra touch of class at the Paramount Theatre

CEDAR RAPIDS – Rodgers & Hammerstein Classics in Concert! is more than just a grand night for singing on the Paramount Theatre stage. It’s also a grand night for playing the lush orchestrations – and the weekend matinees make for grand afternoons of music, as well.

This second collaboration between Orchestra Iowa and Theatre Cedar Rapids is just as wildly satisfying as last year’s concert version of Music Man, eliciting cheers and a well-deserved standing ovation from more than 700 fans Friday night (2/27/15) for the first of four performances, ending Sunday.

But the show/concerts are very different in tone.

Last year’s Music Man featured character costuming, choreography and theatrical flair. But organizers say Rodgers & Hammerstein concert licensing forbids costuming, scenery, dialogue and choreography. Caveats, schmaveats. Those restrictions didn’t prevent the presenters from creating a visually stunning event.

Black tuxes, white tie and tails, evening gowns and bling created an elegance that perfectly complemented the majesty of the music from Carousel, State Fair, The King and I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!

Under Maestro Timothy Hankewich’s dancing baton, the lovely “Carousel Waltz” gives just the right spin of splendor to begin the concert of classics by the duo who reinvented and dominated musical theater in the 1940s and ’50s. Their winning ways combined for 35 Tonys, 15 Oscars, two Grammys, two Emmys and two Pulitzer Prizes.

This music never goes out of style. It bridges the realms of opera and musical theater, providing a stunning showcase for classically trained voices of local artists like Nadine Borngraeber, whose poise and sophistication propels “Hello Young Lovers” from **_The King and I_ to dramatically glorious heights.

Impeccable directors Cameron Sullenberger and Brian Glick also allow fine actors with killer voices to explore the themes with equal parts sass and class – as Jonathan Swenson contemplates fatherhood in the swaggering “Soliloquy” and Tracie Hodina adds her brass to “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” both from Carousel. The recently betrothed Hodina later adds an extra measure of jubilance to “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” from South Pacific.

All 15 soloists have gorgeous voices worthy of accolades, but several artists and moments call for an extra round of applause.

Pint-size Dylan Ascher, 8, could not be any cuter on “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I, guided by Borngraeber as Anna and surrounded by 24 ultra-adorable Kid Choristers. Time has seemingly stood still for David Raim, who is back after a 20-year hiatus from TCR, and whose voice continues to melt butter and hearts on “If I Loved You” from Carousel.

High School senior Britta Fults brings her youthful exuberance to the whimsical “(When I Marry) Mister Snow” from Carousel and polish beyond her years to “Do-Re-Mi,” set inside a magnificent aural accompaniment from nearly 50 chorus members. Loralee Songer leads the chorus in a most beautiful, reverent version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.

The singers are never alone, as Orchestra Iowa dances and shimmers through the fleshed-out, challenging symphonic arrangements of these beloved show tunes. Leading it all the way is the effervescent Hankewich, who adds an unexpected exclamation point to the grand finale of Oklahoma!

Talent overflows in the Corridor, and when two of the area’s most venerable organizations team up, they create not only magic, but some enchanted evening.

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