The Randall Theatre’s “Broadway or Bust” is a lively and informative tribute to the Broadway musicals of the tumultuous 1960s. Director Kathy Wing managed to narrow down songs from the more than 150 musicals that debuted that decade to 16 favorites that will have audience members smiling nostalgically.
The 1960s were a time of seismic changes in American culture. Children of the post-war baby boom questioned their parents’ values. The assassinations John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy shook the nation. The Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution changed America forever. Along the way, Broadway musicals reflected those changes in wild and thoughtful ways.
From the bubbly teen satire of “Bye Bye Birdie” to the revolutionary rock musical “Hair,” the 1960s gave us some of the most memorable and groundbreaking works of our time. “Broadway or Bust” offers a sampler of the era with songs from the aforementioned shows as well as “Camelot,” "Man of La Mancha,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hello Dolly,” “Mame,” “Cabaret,” “Oliver!” and more.
Wing has created a strong original script that seamlessly incorporates interesting background about the musicals and how they reflected the era, audience-engaging skits, goofy jokes and loads of song and dance. John Wing, Jonathan Daniel Keith and Michael Wing provide a smooth soundtrack, and Toni Holley has a collection of costumes and props to fit the period. Choreographer Brianna Gowland’s dance moves work well on the small stage, adding fun visual interest without leaving the singers too breathless.
The five ensemble players, including Wing, work their butts off. Rhyon Ingalls’ versatility is impressive as he moves from fast-paced narration to a high-kick song-and-dance number, and then back to narration without missing a beat. Soprano Kristen Calvin has serious pipes and does justice to “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” a challenging song from the musical “Funny Girl” that made Barbara Streisand a star. Jonathan Oles and Brad Zentgraf sing well individually and add comic energy to the group numbers. None of the actors take themselves too seriously, and the ensemble is delightful as a group.
The community-based, all-volunteer Randall, with its comfortable movie theater seats and friendly vibe, is a good venue for such a review. On opening night, the audience was relaxed and happy to be part of the fun as actors moved up and down the aisles or played an interactive game of musical Mad Libs. At the end of the show, theatergoers left with a light step and humming happy tunes.
“Broadway or Bust” plays Nov. 8 and Nov. 12-15, with shows at 7 p.m. Nov. 12-14, and 1 p.m. matinees Nov. 8 and 15. Advanced tickets are $15/$18, and seats remaining unsold 30 minutes before showtime are pay-what-you-want at the door. To purchase tickets, call 541-632-3258 or see www.randalltheatre.com. The Randall is located at 10 E. Third St., in Medford.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at email@example.com