Photo: The cast of UNCHAINED MELODY. (Larry Levenson)
Review: UNCHAINED MELODY at Quality Hill Playhouse
By Marissa Carter
UNCHAINED MELODY, playing through April 9th at the Quality Hill Playhouse, is a joyful evening of fun music and interesting musical education.
This lively and entertaining cabaret revue features a set-list of doo-wop favorites such as “Sh-Boom,” “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” and “Blue Moon” performed by Samantha Agron, Tim Noland, Christina Burton, Robert Erik Sobbe, and J. Kent Barnhart, who is also the Producing Artistic Director, pianist, and Emcee for the evening. Accompanying the vocal talent are Ken Remmert on drums and Brian Wilson on bass.
The musical arrangements in the show were fresh, playful, and for the most part, very successful. We were treated to a cappella arrangements, impressive drum and bass solos, and some long compilations that highlighted the best of each featured song while keeping the show within a manageable timeframe.
The first act, although very good, left a little to be desired. After a rocky start with a somewhat messy arrangement of “Unchained Melody,” the show took off and we got to see what these performers were really capable of. Especially when Noland and Sobbe both display impressive vocal range and excellent pitch in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
Act two is enjoyable enough on its own to be worth the price of admission. Here we experienced the glory days of doo-wop music through four spectacular solos. Sobbe’s performance of “Cry” was unbelievably good. He absolutely captured the spirit of the song and the time period, and for the first time I understood why girls would scream, cry and faint over the original performers of these songs.
Throughout the show, Barnhart, as the Emcee, tied the whole package together and put a nice bow on top with his droll commentary and educational tidbits. Through him we learned about musical composition, the shameful history of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and how doo-wop music brought audiences together. His funny, interesting and well-researched comments added a whole new dimension to each performance and brought the audience closer to the music.
Set against a simple and elegant backdrop, the show is visually pleasing. Costume Designer Georgianna Buchanan did an excellent job outfitting the performers in a way that is striking without being overdone, and Barhart’s lighting design provides a perfect compliment to each song in the show.
Overall, UNCHAINED MELODY is a stylish show that will be enjoyed by audience members and doo-wop fans of all ages. It is an evening of great music, amazing talent, and pure fun.