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Review: Salute to Broadway offers an escapist night out

Guilty-pleasure revue samples musical theatre from Tin Pan Alley to present day.

Given today’s quagmire of global war and political hijinks, it’s pure relief to experience two hours of unadulterated theatrical froth.

Enter 100 Years of Broadway, a song-and-dance extravaganza now playing at the University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre. With dizzying speed this guilty-pleasure revue (assembled by composer Mac Huff) samples musical theatre from Tin Pan Alley to present day.

The ostensible aim, with the help of light narration, is to provide a potted history of Broadway. The real aim appears to be jamming as much tunage into an evening as humanly possible. For the faint of heart, the sheer number of Broadway ditties presented may trigger vertigo as well as delight.

In Act I alone, samples of 55 songs are performed by a cast of hard-working UVic theatre students. The 20th-century smorgasbord ranges from Yankee Doodle Dandy to Luck be a Lady to On the Street Where You Live to There’s No Business Like Show Business. It’s rather fun, at the same time, it’s a bit like watching a Lawrence Welk/Disneyland show on speed.

Huff takes a breath in Act II, offering a smaller sprinkling of contemporary fare such as You’ll Be Back from Hamilton (nicely performed Thursday night by Liam James), Seasons of Love from Rent and For Good from Wicked. Slowing from a sprint to a speed-walk works better as it gives us a chance to savour what’s on offer.

100 Years of Broadway is a wonderful opportunity for theatre students to experience the daunting task of being a triple threat. Acting, dancing and singing your way through such a show is a jaw-dropping challenge — there’s a plethora of music to learn, much of it technically difficult. As music director Stephanie Sartore notes: “The sheer volume of detailed music to learn made this an exceptional undertaking for a department without musical instruction.”

The show is directed and choreographed by UVic alumni Pia Wyatt, a Louisiana theatre/dance professor who was once co-artistic director of Victoria’s KIDCO Dance. She’s done a solid job bringing 100 Years of Broadway to life, creating choreography that’s simple yet striking. Jaeden Walton’s uncluttered sets follow a similar approach.

There’s a range of talent and abilities on offer here. Each performer has an opportunity to showcase his or her abilities — and most managed to impress, even if fleetingly. On this particular night notables included Link Bechtold, Chiara Power, Brigit Stewart and the irrepressible Avery Przyswitt (in the program it says she can’t choose between a career onstage or backstage — my vote would be for onstage).

This show will mostly appeal to Broadway fans; however, anyone yearning for an escapist night out will find something to enjoy. 100 Years of Broadway continues at the Phoenix Theatre to Feb. 24.