It may not be quite the same as attending a concert live at White Rock Players Club’s Johnston Road playhouse.
But the club’s latest online production – held over by popular demand to April 7 – demonstrates that the club is close to perfecting the next best thing.
Duets, a classy, well-performed, well-edited concert of musical theatre numbers – recorded at the currently under-used playhouse – represents a leap forward in technical adeptness for the club.
Available at the Players Club’s website for free streaming – although a donation of $15 to help cover costs would be appreciated – it’s well worth the viewing and the support, particularly if you’re a fan of Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.
It’s also a welcome reminder that concert/revue shows like this, in addition to dramas and comedies, have been a staple throughout the club’s history, particularly under duress – such as times when it has been in fundraising mode, or has had to curtail usual production because of repairs to the theatre.
Duets features WRPC president Rebekah MacEwan as host, singer and director, along with three pairs of well-regarded singers from recent musical theatre productions in White Rock and other regional venues, along with the piano accompaniment and musical direction of seasoned Peninsula-raised musician Kerry O’Donovan.
Featured singers are Melissa Funnell, Jesse Alvarez, Jennifer Rose Garcia, Jake Hildebrand, Daniel Meszaros and Samantha Silver, and it’s a well-chosen group of tuneful and complementary talents.
Instead of the expected COVID-era ‘Zoom call’ talking (or singing) heads, the show, recorded under stringent distancing guidelines, uses the space of the theatre stage wisely, with duet partners at either side, and O’Donovan at the grand piano in between, taking full advantage of interspersing full-stage long shots with close-ups.
Selections (too many to chronicle here) range from a tribute to the groundbreaking work of Stephen Sondheim as lyricist and composer to numbers from more traditional musical theatre classics like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, and Little Shop of Horrors, all flawlessly accompanied by O’Donovan.
To MacEwan’s already well-noted singing talents, Duets adds a feather in the cap for sure, well-judged direction in putting the whole production together (along with choreographer Carol Seitz and producer Fred Partridge).
For Silver it’s a demonstration of characterization, plus pure singing tone not always given full rein in recent Christmas panto settings. And Hildebrand, strong as always, approaches the material with such versatility that one begins to wonder if there is nothing he can’t do theatre-wise.
Duets is also a showcase of Garcia’s power and vivacity, and Alvarez’ effectively self-contained, yet highly sensitive understanding of each piece.
Funnell’s expressive interpretations also mark her as a talent to watch for in musical theatre, while Meszaros matches technical ability with an appealing presence.
Roll on, the end of COVID, so that we can see all of these players in a live setting again!
To view Duets visit whiterockplayers.ca