HJT finishes season with ‘Grand Night’

Ian Jagel

“This isn’t your grandma’s Rodgers and Hammerstein!” said Kathleen Conry, guest choreographer of Harper Joy Theatre’s last show of the year, “It’s A Grand Night for Singing.”

Conry, guest choreographer and Broadway veteran from New York, has played almost every lead in each of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s main shows. “My feelings of Rodgers and Hammerstein go so way back: to when I was a teenager. So to be able to do a show like this is like a dream come true.”

“It’s A Grand Night for Singing” is a revue show of the “greatest pieces of their music from all of their musicals,” said Rodgers.

Conry will be collaborating with theatre faculty member Parke Thomas. “Both of us have done a lot of Rodgers and Hammerstein, both together and individually,” said Thomas.

Although the show does not have a recurrent plot, “every song, or every couple of songs, is like it’s own two act play: or sometimes a one act. But there is a beginning a middle and an end: even if it’s just a couple of songs,” said Thomas. “There’s no story to be told, per se, except the story of Rodgers and Hammerstein through their music.”

“It’s fun for me because initially, the show was staged with only five people. There was very little choreography, but with 18 actors who all dance, act, and sing, the show becomes something new,” said Conry.

“This show is a big challenge. The show starts at 8 p.m. and they don’t stop singing and dancing until the curtain comes down. There are 32 songs!” said Thomas.

“It’s an evening of romance, of love and passion.”

This will be Thomas’ final play here are Whitman. “It’s been a great way to wrap things up. I know I say this often, but this is an especially dedicated and impassioned group of people,” said Thomas. “You can’t end a period of your time doing musicals with any better than Rodgers and Hammerstein,” said Thomas.

As Thomas writes in his director’s note: “we won’t go anywhere near Oklahoma, the South Pacific or Austria tonight!: we come to appreciate the depth of understanding, both musical and lyrical, that Rodgers and Hammerstein had for that most human of subjects: love.”

“It’s a Grand Night for Singing” opens tonight, May 3, on the Alexander Stage. The show runs for two weekends with this weekend’s shows starting at 8 p.m. Thur. through Sat. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The second weekend is runs from May 17-19. Tickets are available at the Harper Joy Box Office. For information and reservations call (509) 527-5180.