'Starting Here, Starting Now' - My Review

Stray Kats Theatre Company presents a unique musical review

The Stray Kats Theatre Company is presenting its first musical production at Edmond Town Hall’s Alexandria Room in Newtown. While $2.00 movies where being shown of the first floor, this lovely, small ballroom on the second floor of the building was set up cabaret style with tables of various sizes. Young people dressed in black took care of patrons. Open seating allowed ticket holders to sit wherever they pleased and beverages and snacks were for sale for those who hadn't brought their own. I was lucky to get a complimentary ticket to opening night because the audience was full.

Starting Here, Starting Now is a musical revue with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and music by David Shire. Using songs from their various early musicals (produced or otherwise), Yale graduates Maltby & Shire created this piece that explores modern city romance. Each original song is a story that definitely showcases the versatility of the performers and their accompanist. The songs range from ballads to a very funny husband-hunting lament that were sung by one, two or all three members of the company.

The cast features three very talented vocalists/actors. They had their scores on music stands in front of them, but at times it was clear that they had memorized almost all of the piece. Tenor Mark Basile and sopranos Leigh Katz and Sarah Paige Morris all had Broadway-calliber voices. I learned from the seven coworkers that sat at my table that Mr. Basile of Weston is a real estate agent/interior designer by day, but his acting credits are also quite impressive. Ms. Katz is an acting instructor and an accomplished performer. Ms. Morris is a recent college graduate and a strong actress; I especially enjoyed her take on "Crossword Puzzle" in the first act.

Kate Katcher directed the review with music direction by Mark Cherry. Both insured that the diction of the singers was crisp and the blend of the voices was perfect. Mr. Cherry played the well-arranged accompaniment on a grand piano placed on the stage to the side of three performers. His credits include the original run of Nunsense on Broadway and composition work.

There was a comic cameo appearance by a woman billed as "Thelma von Thelma," who I suspect was the director Ms. Katcher. An actress who debuted on Broadway as "Tzeitel" in Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel, she made us laugh with "I'm Going to Make You Beautiful."

The lighting added to the production by highlighting each singer at the right time and the sound was flawless. The costumes for the first act were black and white, while the second act featured jewel tones.

Some thought that this would be a cabaret with songs they would recognize, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to a whopping 26 new (to me) songs. Each was very well-performed. These were not simple ditties; however, this cast mastered the harmonies and staggered entrances to make beautiful music. Think of this show as a musical reader's theatre with a loose storyline of lots of mini dramas.

Three performances remain. Curtain time for all four performances on Fridays and Saturdays, July 21, 27 & 28 is at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at www.straykatstheatrecompany.org or by calling 203-514-2221. Price: $35 each when purchased in advance and $40 when purchased at the door.

Next up for this group will be their first full production coming in January of 2013, the world premier of Small World by Frederick Stroppel. This is the comic interpretation of a meeting between two unique and very different personalities. The Walt Disney film Fantasia was an unprecedented integration of music and image, including music by classical composer Igor Stravinsky. Small World, a new play by Frederick Stroppel, invites us into a conversation between internationally-acclaimed composer Stravinksy, 58, and Walt Disney, the dynamic 38-year-old creator of Mickey Mouse, as they discuss the groundbreaking film Fantasia.

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