Beari production livens up wet Queens weekend

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It was yet another dark and stormy evening on June 21 when Beari Productions presented “The Best of Magical, Musical Moments” in the gymnasium of Trinity Lutheran Church in Middle Village. Rollicking, beautifully put together and performed by a troupe of brilliantly talented singers, the revue of 38 of Beari’s best loved and most-often-requested songs made the audience forget how miserably soggy they were.

Director Debbie Bendana opened the evening with “Welcome to the Theater,” followed by Naomi Zeitlin, a woman with a gleaming smile — like the rest of the cast, she seemed utterly happy to be on stage that ghastly night — and powerful soprano voice who sang a wistful version of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” She was followed by Jimmy O’Neill, a fresh-faced tenor who recalled the callow youth in all those Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, who sang “Stranger in Paradise.”

The songs came mostly from the musical theater and the movies, but there was a smattering of top 40 hits — the company’s version of Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” proved they could rock out when necessary, even in tuxedos, evening dresses, high heels and serious jewelry.

Alison Schwab, who specialized in tender ballads that evening, sang a poignant version of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Later in the program she sang “My Heart Will Go On,” in a way that made the song not only bearable, which it’s not whenever Celine Dion sings it, but moving and lovely. For the first time since the wretched song came out I found myself humming the tune on my way home, and that says a great deal.

Jean Ann Kump performed with great zest, sexiness and a flair for comedy. She wore an especially fabulous gown (with a fishtail train) and chandelier earrings; not surprisingly, she sang “I Get a Kick Out of You” and other saucy, sophisticated numbers.

Barri Feuer’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” was a show stopper — she gave Whitney a run for her money with her glorious, ringing soprano. Cas Marino came on with “Younger Than Springtime” while Ron Caveglia sang a lush and nostalgia-inducing “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Schwab belted out “Honey Bun,” backed by all the guys and wearing sailor hats. The number was hilarious, especially when co-producer Rene Bendana came on wearing a coconut bra, a mop wig and a grass skirt as the eponymous personage.

Logically, after this number, the guys launched into “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” and just before intermission the company did a spirited “Be Our Guest,” with Richard Weyhausen as a fussy French Maitre D’.

The second act opened with the company singing “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat,” from “Guys and Dolls.” Feuer and Marino sang “I Have Dreamed” while clasping hands — they looked too cute together. The girls, with Kump in a gold lamé jacket this time, bounced through a joyous version of “It’s Raining Men,” to be joined near the end of the number by the guys. (Red-haired Don Gormanly had the goofy energy of Chris Farley, as well as a beautiful voice he’d earlier put to great use in “Meditation.”)

Later, Weyhausen came out in full “Phantom of the Opera” gear, including swirling satin cape and half-mask, and did “Music of the Night,” and Feuer and Gormanly sang a touching, “All I Ask of You.”

Debbie Bendana’s version of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” lacked the fury and scariness with which the song is usually sung, appropriately. Instead, she was exuded maternal cheer and optimism, while Zeitlin infused “I Dreamed a Dream,” with sad defiance. O’Neill sang a rapturous version of “Maria” from West Side Story and Feuer, Marino, O’Neill, Weyhausen and Zeitlin followed with “Tonight.” Their performance emphasized the cross currents of young love and murder that are the themes of a Jerome Robbins’ musical. The evening ended — too soon — with the company singing “One” from “A Chorus Line,” doffing gold spangled hats.

Bendana’s direction was crisp and the transitions between songs was seamless. The elegant set design was made of pale yellow watered silk curtains hung with posters for the show and black musical notes. Kudos also to the technical crew, whose lighting, from what seemed to be a single focused luminaire, was as good and sharp as anything found on Broadway.

Catch the remaining performances of “The Best of Magical, Musical Moments” at Trinity Lutheran Church, 63-70 Dry Harbor Rd., at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 718-736-1263 for tickets.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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