Theater Review: FASCINATING RHYTHM (Lyric Stage Company in Boston MA)

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by Lynne Weiss on July 8, 2023

in Theater-Boston,Theater-Regional


With stellar performances on two baby grands, a few silly props, and creative use of audience participation, Kirsten Salpini (sometimes wearing a tie to indicate Gershwin) and Jared Troilo (sometimes in bushy white wig to indicate Bernstein) pay energetic and loving tribute to the music of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, slipping in and out of character in the course of this highly entertaining—and dare I say it? —heartwarming revue. In an imaginary encounter, the two dead composers vie for the title of the “most influential composer of the twentieth century,” citing their accomplishments as composers of musicals, operas, and symphonies. We learn that the young Bernstein, a big fan of Gershwin’s, was so overcome by the news of Gershwin’s death (when Bernstein was a teenager) that he could not speak, but simply sat down at a piano and played Gershwin’s Second Prelude—excerpted in the show by Trolio.

The revue, which not only stars Salpini and Troilo but was created by them, opens with a selection from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a piece that had a great influence on young Leonard Bernstein. The fictionally portrayed Gershwin is initially offended by Bernstein’s assumption that they are equals. He has never heard of Bernstein, whose career did not get underway until after Gershwin’s death. But once Troilo plays “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story, Gershwin acknowledges the influence of his own First Prelude on that piece and the two begin to share their love of music.

The tone of the evening is uplifting. How could it not be, with a soundtrack like this one? Rhapsody in Blue segues into Bernstein’s “Mambo!” followed by “Fascinating Rhythm” (of course.) Already cued to shout “Mambo” in the earlier number, the opening-night audience complied with the request to sing along with the line “I’m so lucky to be me” in “Lucky To Be Me,” (from Bernstein’s On the Town). This was followed by selections from a series of beautiful love songs in which Salpini and Troilo took turns on vocals and keyboards: “Our Love is Here to Stay,” “Embraceable You,” “How Long Has This Been Going On?,” “Maria,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and finally “Somewhere.” I wished for microphones on some of the vocals, especially when Salpini was sitting at a keyboard as well as singing, but her soprano rose to the occasion on “Somewhere,” when she was front and center of the stage. Troilo’s tenor was stronger, but miking would have been welcome there as well to balance the beautiful vocals with the pianos. At the intermission, the audience was asked to list things they were grateful for on slips of paper—I’ll avoid a spoiler simply by saying that these slips were used to create a surprising and humorous “libretto” later in the show.

If the first half of the show was a bit heavier on Gershwin, the second half foregrounded Bernstein, including a number of selections from his opera Candide (“Glitter and Be Gay,” “Candide Overture,” and “Make Our Garden Grow”), “A Little Bit in Love” from Wonderful Town, and “Officer Krupke” from West Side Story along with a number of Gershwin tunes, including “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (accompanied by Salpini’s tap-dancing hands), “But Not for Me,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and finally “I Got Rhythm,” a nice bookend to the title song. In addition to some microphones, a printed or digital program would be a welcome addition to this otherwise utterly delightful evening of song by two very talented performers.

Fascinating Rhythm
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street in Boston
ends on July 16, 2023
for tickets, call 617.585.5678 or visit Lyric

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Wendy Goldberg July 18, 2023 at 1:32 pm

Wow! I would’ve loved to see this!! Great review!


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