Just Awards


With the launch of his ninth season as the music man of Quality Hill Playhouse, J. Kent Barnhart has scooped off the cream from a crop of Tony-winning musicals. And because he has 53 years from which to draw — from the organization’s first honoree, Kiss Me, Kate, to this past season’s justifiably Tony-hogging Hairspray — the new show, The Envelope Please, could have theoretically been a marathon.

Instead, Barnhart and cast — Alison Sneegas Borberg, Cindy Baker, and Dustin Stephen Cates — give us in just under two hours a chronological sprint through Broadway’s greatest hits. The show opens with a trio of songs from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate and progresses to one of the best numbers of the evening, “I Wanna Be a Producer” from 2001 victor The Producers. The latter hands Borberg the biggest laugh in the show as well; her own impending delivery of twins gives her line about a producer’s “casting couch” a naughty spin.

There’s much in the show that is predictable and fairly rote: the title song from Cabaret; “The Impossible Dream”; and “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” for starters. And the three numbers from Titanic prove excessive. What’s sly about Barnhart’s selections, though, is the way he isolates Baker, giving her several numbers filled with romantic woes, while pairing up Borberg and Cates for such love duets as The King and I‘s “We Kiss in a Shadow.” The strategy pays off big-time when the three of them tackle the triple-tiered drama of “A Heart Full of Love” from Les Miserables.

When Barnhart steps away from the keys to chat, he wittily roasts Las Vegas in the first act (calling it “Raytown with hotels”) but runs out of gas in the second, calling Nine, the musical version of Fellini’s 8 1/2, an adaptation of “8 1/2 Weeks” and fumbling the remaining order of songs. Baker, too, goes up on her lines in her solo, “Adelaide’s Lament,” lamentably destroying the last chorus, though she recovers nicely.

Borberg truly demonstrates the reputed glow of a woman with child (in this case, two of them); she’s never looked or sung lovelier. Cates can deliver a song with perfect pitch, but in a manner that’s rather stiff; at times, he seems to be stuck in quick-drying cement. Still, the show’s a bright primer of Broadway history and poses the obvious question — how about a Quality Hill revue of the shows that lost the Best Musical Tony? That group of wanna-bes would include, for a start, West Side Story, Gypsy, Dreamgirls and Chicago.

Categories: A&E, Stage