"Song & Dance," the newest offering at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, is a joyful, high-energy look at the past 100 or so years of American musical theater.
"Song & Dance" is the creation of Cabaret Artistic Director Jim Giancarlo and performers Christopher George Patterson and Kymberli Colbourne. It draws upon classic musical material and but also gives us hints of the actors' personal stories.
Giancarlo, Patterson and Colbourne come from widely different backgrounds and training, but all share a profound love for the American musical tradition.
Patterson and Colbourne are seasoned performers. They are not 20something, cookie-cutter-perfect lookers. But their talent, their enthusiasm and their dancing and musical skills are delightful to behold.
Dancer Patterson and vocalist Colbourne each take a turn showcasing memorable singers, dancers and composers to recap the history of distinctly American song and dance from its vaudeville beginnings through the era of movie musicals and the heyday of the American musical theater.
The production, directed by Giancarlo, starts with vaudeville's melting-pot of cultures. Patterson easily shifts from the mellow Bert Williams to the sly Fats Waller, along with a misty-eyed homage to the great Buster Brown, Patterson's teacher and mentor.
The Yiddish humor in vaudeville as personified by Fanny Brice shows up as Colbourne mugs through "Becky is Back in the Ballet," then segues into the poignant "My Man." Colbourne also does a hilarious riff on the bawdy sexuality of Mae West.
Colbourne's own roots then show up with a Patsy Cline medley. Colbourne absolutely nails Cline's distinctive voice and delivery.
The show then cheerfully meanders on through a lot of familiar and unfamiliar material, from World War II's bounce to the polished sophistication of Bob Fosse and the upbeat music of the '70s and '80s.
This is Giancarlo's 27th season at the Cabaret. Patterson and Colbourne are also OCT veterans, both having appeared in numerous productions. Colbourne directed the recent "The Big Bang." Patterson directed and choreographed last season's "What a Glorious Feeling" and this season's "Life Could Be a Dream."
Rather amazingly, musical director/pianist John Taylor and percussionist Tom Freeman, tucked at the back of the stage, give the production a big-band sound.
As always, Craig Hudson's spare and stylized scenic design, with an art-deco proscenium and a few props, such as a trunk or makeup table, showcases the performers rather than overwhelms them. The same can be said for designer Kerri Lea Robbins' perfectly cut and tailored costumes.
"Song & Dance" plays at OCT through Nov. 4. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays and 1 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 541-488-2902 or visit www.oregoncabaret.com.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.