Musical set to open at Downey Theatre

DOWNEY - Next weekend at the Downey Theatre, Marsha Moode, executive director and producer of the Downey Civic Light Opera Association, will be opening, for a three weekend run, the second musical of the 2009-2010 season, "Rodgers & Hart: A Celebration."Thou swell! Normally when you go out to see a musical, it's to delight in or at least appreciate the story, characters, production values - including sets and costumes - dance, music crafted to capture the overall atmosphere, and songs written to highlight a character's emotions. You don't usually go just for the songs, which don't give you the same bang for your buck. But the music and lyrics of Rodgers and Hart in this celebration provide more than recompense. In the case of Richard Rodgers, you'll discover a wholly different musical temperament than the one he showed in his collaborations with Oscar Hammerstein II (the only other song writer he worked with). Hammerstein was a deft lyricist, but he had a sunnier temperament than Hart and was more at home with big-hearted Americana - even the exotic "The King and I" kept its eye on the triumphal strength of simple decency. With Hammerstein, Rodgers was grand, sweeping, romantic, an American waltz king. Lorenz Hart was a different story, a complete anomaly in the Broadway scene of glitter and grandeur, showgirls and show-stopping Grand Old Flag production numbers. Boy meets girl has always been at the heart of the musical; Hart was first to say "Wait a minute!" Where others were content to see love triumph, he was the first to wonder out loud about the price of victory, or at least recognize the wounds of battle. "The loving loves/the hateful hates/the conversation with the flying plates," from his song "I Wish I Were in Love Again," is vintage Hart, as is "This can't be love/because I fell so well./No sobs, no sorrow, no sighs." Whether Hart's homosexuality, his alcoholism, or the licensed neuroticism enjoyed by a certain kind of worldly New Yorker (he graduated from Columbia with a journalism degree) have anything to do with it, nobody before - and only one lyricist since in Stephen Sondheim - understood the complication of love better than he did. A lot of his songs are sweet-tempered and hopeful, like "My Romance," Manhattan," and "Wait Till You See Her." He was often witty, and his economy and inventive skill with a lyric were astonishing. But a lot of his most moving work touched not just on the ambiguities and mixed blessings of love (what today we would call trade-offs), not to mention self-delusion ("Falling in Love With Love is Falling for Make Believe"), but of the deeper confusions of being alive, those mysterious pockets of disappointment and melancholy that steal over us like an unaccountable mood. "Where or When," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "It Never Entered My Mind" are classic examples of the incurable human condition of dismay. Hart lived hard, emotionally as well as physically. When Rodgers approached him to do what would become 1943's "Oklahoma!," Hart knew that blue skies and windswept plains were not for him, and graciously declined. He died within the same year at the age of 48. "Rodgers & Hart: A Celebration" will be presented Feb. 18 - March 7 (three weekends) at the Downey Theatre, 8435 Firestone Blvd. Performance times are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. There is one "preview" performance scheduled on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. The Downey Civic Light Opera Association's box office hours are Tuesdays - Fridays, 1-5 p.m., and also one hour prior to performance. Tickets may be charged by phone, (562) 923-1714, with MasterCard, Visa, or Discover Card. Students, seniors and group rates are available. Submitted by Downey Civic Light Opera Association will special thanks to Lawrence Christon

********** Published: February 12, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 43

EntertainmentEric Pierce