Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rock and Soul at Centerstage

Front: Jesse Smith, back: DuWayne Andrews, Jr., Zack Wheeler,
Bobby Barnts. Photo by Michele Smith Lewis
What do you call eight men and women with impressive training and experience in musical theater, solo performance, and even opera, singing and dancing their hearts out for two-and-a-half hours? You call it rock and soul — a soul-stirring evening of some of the best of the music that defined an era.
It’s Only Rock and Soul at Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way brings is an evening of favorite hits of the ’60s and ’70s that is well worth a drive. We drove up from Olympia and it was a late night for us, but if it had gone on for another hour that would have been just fine with me.
All but two of the cast are Seattle and South Sound favorites. Those two, Trista Duval and Zack Wheeler are newcomers to the area with strong professional backgrounds in other parts of the country. Duval has performed professionally in Massachusetts, Florida and Texas. Wheeler has performed in film and on stage in New York. He even performed in benefits for Bill and Hillary Clinton and for Al Sharpton.
DuWayne Andrews, Jr. was in Seattle Opera’s Porgy and Bess and has been seen at Tacoma Musical Playhouse in The Color Purple and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He sings and dances with power and energy. He’s mesmerizing on “War,” the powerful anti-war anthem written by Edwin Strong and first recorded by the Temptations.
Stacie Calkins, queen of soul in the South Sound, starred in Dream Girls, The Color Purple, Tommy, and many of the Purple Phoenix Productions including The Lena Horne Songbook and Aretha at the Apollo. In this show she does a great medley of Aretha Franklin songs and a stunning rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” in duet with Jesse Smith.
Bobby Barnts is making his Centerstage debut in It’s Only Rock and Soul. He’s an opera singer, having performed with both Seattle Opera and Tacoma Opera, but he proves in this performance that he can belt out rock and roll and tender ballads with the best of them. His amazing call-and-response duo with Wheeler on “Hello It’s Me” and “Desperado” leaves the audience breathless.
Centerstage audiences know Smith from his lead role in Tommy and Ain’t Misbehavin’ and their previous summer rock extravaganza, I’m Into Something Good. His acting, his joyful smile, his energy and his smooth voice draw the audience in and make them feel like they’re a part of the songs.
Ashanti Mangum’s previous outing at Centerstage was in Ain’t Misbehavin.’ In Seattle she’s performed at Intiman, the 5th Avenue and Seattle Opera. She is absolutely spellbinding in that great heart-tugger from Hair, “Easy to Be Hard” and in the haunting “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Meg McLynn. Photo by Michele Smith Lewis
Meg McLynn starred in Purple Phoenix Productions Patsy Cline tribute and Tommy and the English Panto Pinocchio. She does a knockout “Angel in the Morning” that segues into Janice Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” and her rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” complete with psychedelic lighting is one of the highest of highlights in a show filled with highlights.
Rather than doing the songs chronologically, they are grouped by theme and style, with a “chemical sequence” (recalling the ‘60s drug culture), boy-group and girl-group medleys, and songs of war and peace. The five-piece band led by David Duvall is outstanding as always, and Duvall’s arrangements are masterful, especially on some of the chemical sequence numbers and the Beatles medley and a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” that’s unlike any I’ve ever heard.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 26, 3200 SW Dash Point Road,

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