“Love Is Here to Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ November 7, 2016


Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

In the early part of the 20th century, George and Ira Gershwin penned a rich collection of wonderful songs for their Broadway musicals and Hollywood films.  It’s easy to forget these songs but the pair’s lush collection form the basis of Theater Works smashing world premiere tribute, “”Love Is Here To Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret.”

Using over 50 of the team’s songs supplemented by a couple of tunes written by George with other lyricists, Steve Hilderbrand and Gary Gallner have crafted and staged the charming and thoroughly entertaining show.  Interspersed between the expertly performed songs are some cleverly crafted dances choreographed by Katrina Sanders and just enough biographical background to provide the inspirations that helped create the masterpieces.  We learn about the Gershwin family and how it played into the still vibrantly and rhythmically stylistic songs they wrote.

An interesting observation was heard opening night.  Many of the team’s songs have lengthy lead-ins that contain the most pointed song lyrics as they brilliantly preview the catchy melody and smooth lyrics that follow.

The revue’s crowning glory is a marvelous cast of seven who are each paired perfectly with the songs they deliver.  Each performer not only sings gloriously but dances with effortless ease performing sophisticated routines including some rousing soft shoe numbers. Classy costumes give the show a stylish look that is enhanced by a multiple level set that engulfs the swinging four-person band that plays the Gershwin music artfully as led by musical director Hilderbrand.

Female performers include Kathleen Berger who croons a mean “The Man I Love,” Trisha Hart Ditsworth who triumphs in Ethel Merman’s standard “I Got Rhythm” and stops the show several other times, Beth Anne Johnson contributes a moving “I Loves You Porgy” from Gershwin’s famous opera, and Alexandra Utpadel provides opulent vocals in the many ensemble numbers.

The three men include Colin Ross who deliciously sings “A Foggy Day” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” Scott Schmelder who pairs with Johnson on a fun “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off,” and Joshua Vern who suavely sprints through “Fascinating Rhythm” with Ditsworth.

If you love George and Ira Gershwin’s fabulous songs or if you’re just discovering the pair’s tunes, you can’t miss with “Love Is Here To Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret.”  It continues through November 20.  To order tickets, call the Theater Works box office at 623-815-7930 or order tickets online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: A