“‘S Wonderful” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ December 17, 2012


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Theatre’s cute musical revue, “’S Wonderful,” packs 42 George and Ira Gershwin tunes into five vignettes that take place in different periods from the 1920s to the present day.  Add a top notch cast of five and an excellent three piece band and I guarantee the tunes are well presented.  The negative is that the five vignettes tend to detract from the songs more than adding a context that makes them richer.  In fact, the vignettes take away from the wonderful Gershwin tunes and drag the show out unnecessarily.

Robert Kolby Harper’s sharp staging and nice dance routines showcase the songs well and the cast couldn’t be better.  Toby Yatso is a fine singing and dancing performer and he executes the most challenging songs with dynamic versatility.  The ensemble’s other male, Kyle Erickson Hewitt, sings and dances with effortless ease and, like Yatso, is great in every musical number he performs.  The women – Jenny Hintze, Jenn Taber, and Kaitlynn Kleinman – sing and dance with flawless abandon and classy precision as each brings the right emphasis and sparkle to the songs they perform.

And the songs are wonderful from such huge Gershwin hits as “I Got Rhythm,” “Stairway to Paradise,” “Nice Work,” “Of Thee I Sing,” “Summertime,” “Strike Up The Band,” “An American in Paris” ballet, “Funny Face,” “Lady Be Good,” “Swanee,” and “Embraceable You” to several other lesser standards like “Nobody But You,” “They All Laughed,” and “I’ve Got Beginners Luck.”  And that’s only 14 of the 42 songs in the charming revue.

To be sure, “’S Wonderful” is pleasant entertainment but it is an undistinguished musical revue.  The simplistic concept and routine vignettes lack creative flourish and pull the revue down.  “’S Wonderful” continues through January 6, 2013.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: C

“’S Wonderful” is the last professional production to debut here before Christmas.  This holiday season I’ve reviewed the less traditional offerings so readers could consider seeing other than the perennial holiday attractions like “Christmas Carol” or Ballet Arizona’s beautifully danced and stunningly staged “The Nutcracker.”  Next season, I hope to again attend these traditional holiday attractions to make sure that they are still as wonderful as they have always been. 

After a two week holiday break, I return Monday, January 7 to review Arizona Theatre Company’s production of a new musical, “Jane Austen’s Emma,” based on the popular story.  To all readers, please have the greatest of holidays and return to the local theater world with me on January 7.