note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Reagle Players in Waltham is reviving its old fashioned song and dance tribute to Irving Berlin this fall, but director Bob Eagle isn't resting on his laurels. "Say It With Music (Words and Music by Irving Berlin)" has been revised and reworked with some spiffy additions and a few unexpected treats.
This year's production features Broadway hoofers Beverly and Kirby Ward, whom theatregoers will remember from the national tour of "Showboat" and Reagle's winning "My One And Only" last summer. Beverly is a tiny bundle of energy with a presence and a voice which light up the stage whether she's proudly extolling virtues in "I Got The Sun in The Morning" as Annie Oakley or floating on air with husband Kirby in the sublimely sophisticated "Cheek to Cheek".
Kirby is a dynamo who reminds you of both Cagney and Astaire: He's got the swagger of Cagney and the smooth line of Astaire. His ingenious duet with the orchestra in "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" (Surprise surprise) has his Taps doing the singing! Together the Wards radiate pure class.
Beverly teams up with Reagle leading man R. Glen Mitchell for a radiant "They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful" from "Annie Get Your Gun". Then Mitchell glides solo in the marvellously melancholy "Change Partners and Dance"---to which he adds a charming comic exit. Mitchell's resonant low notes make you forget Bong Crosby when he delivers Berlin's most popular tune "White Christmas".
Director Bob Eagle lets individual Reagle regulars shine in stunning solos --- like Marla Jenkins' mellow, aching "What'll I Do?", Nathan Croner's heartbreaking "When I Lost You" (Written at the death of Berlin's wife), Rusty Russell's breezy, bouncy "Blue Skies", Ann Ormond's gutsy, bluesy "Suppertime" and Doug Hodge's smooth, elegant "Puttin' On The Ritz".
John and Geneva Marshall reprise their smudge-face hobo duet as an adorable "Couple of Swells" a la Astaire and Garland, and the entire company strolls down 5th Avenue for "Easter Parade". Eagle puts a spin on familiar numbers like Sue Carity Conkey and Kathy Headrick's spunky "Sisters" by adding a surprise ending; he even gets a double laugh from Beth Martin's sassy "You'd Be Surprised" by spoofing Marshall's leading-man looks and adding a pint sized Marshall. Clearly the whole company is having a ball. From Julia Liu's pitch perfect musical direction to Aurelie Alger's glam mistress of ceremonies, this gala celebration puts on the ritz --- and then some.