Review: Broadway Nostalgia delivers the goods with aplomb

REVIEW

What: Broadway Nostalgia

Where: Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard St.

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When: Nov. 11, 12, 23, 7:30 p.m. Doors at 6 p.m., buffet at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $69 dinner and show, tax-included

Reservations: 250-220-7777

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If you were to close your eyes during Broadway Nostalgia, Variety Fare’s new dinner theatre show at the Ambrosia Centre, you’d swear you had been teleported to a Catskills resort, famous for their cornball entertainment.

Bob LeBlanc, founder and music director of the vocal ensemble, got things started with a joke about a Donald Trump sandwich — made with sourdough bread and full of bologna. It was, to quote a lyric from a South Pacific tune, “as corny as Kansas in August.”

Quoting a showtune to describe the gag seems appropriate when you consider this taut, briskly paced 75-minute musical revue revels in resurrecting recognizable tunes from Broadway hits.

Dishing out a formula likely to be best appreciated by older crowds fond of dinner theatre and musical blasts from the past, the company delivered the goods with aplomb the other night.

The sextet, accompanied by LeBlanc — the pianist who, as Stan Davis deadpanned, “plays by ear, but sometimes also uses his hands” — got down to business with a medley highlighted by rich harmonies.

Indeed, there’s nothing like an early dose of rousers such as Put on a Happy Face and Another Openin’, Another Show from Kiss Me Kate to get you in the mood for this kind of entertainment.

A spirited, albeit too abridged, version of Hello, Dolly served as an appetizer to such selections as West Side Story’s Maria, which showcased Timothy Kyle’s robust baritone before it segued to another “Maria” classic — How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? from The Sound of Music.

These selections also functioned as a device to give the smartly dressed ensemble an excuse to belt out other songs featuring characters whose names start with M, including the South Pacific classic Bloody Mary, an ideal vehicle for Davis’s impressive bass, and the title tunes from Thoroughly Modern Millie and Mame.

Another thing these songs had in common was that they were conveyed with a high level of vocal talent and assurance from the performers — a hallmark that compensates for the show’s structural limitations.

While Broadway Nostalgia might not win awards for theatrical innovation, it succeeds on its own terms by the sheer force of the variety of talents the cast collectively brings to the table.

LeBlanc, for instance, performs a beautiful instrumental version of Climb Every Mountain amid a medley that features a lovely rendition of Till There Was You from The Music Man and Memories, the Cats classic.

Kyle’s other noteworthy contributions include stirring versions of My Fair Lady’s On The Street Where You Live and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables during the Les Miserables medley.

The melancholic beauty of that number contrasts sharply with the comedic exasperation Kyle unleashes with And Her Mother Came Too, an amusing element of the ensemble’s tribute to Ivor Novello, the legendary British composer and actor.

Other highlights include Leaning on a Lamppost as performed by Katya Delancey, who also impressively showcases her flute-playing skills; Merissa Cox’s soulful version of If He Walked Into My Life; a brief but affecting take on Bring Him Home from Les Miserables by Darren Rathgaber, an appealing presence throughout; and Rebekah Janzen’s achingly beautiful interpretation of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the classic song of solace from Carousel that became a 9/11 remembrance anthem.

Davis, consistently expressive, also shines as Sky Masterson while fronting Luck Be A Lady, one of the Frank Loesser tunes that energize an enjoyable Guys and Dolls medley.

Which brings us to this show’s most jarring ingredient, but one that evoked nostalgia for theatregoers.

It was a musical tribute to the Carpenters who, as LeBlanc, now having swapped his tuxedo for a glittery silver, red-collared jacket, pointed out had recorded some Loesser melodies.

They had us at Close To You, punctuated by snippets of one Carpenters hit after another, including Yesterday Once More and Top of the World.

Cheesy? Perhaps, but the capacity crowd dominated by boomers and seniors ate it up.

Some simple but creative choreography by Kelley O’Connor and Jennifer Sanders effectively utilized the small stage, with the performers donning costumes and props such as top hats, a bridal veil and flowers.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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