Madelyn Adams (left) and Catie Marrion dance to songs by Ira and George Gershwin in 'S Wonderful.' - Photo courtesy of Christopher Briscoe

''S Wonderful' at Oregon Cabaret Theatre

The incomparable and classic American music of George and Ira Gershwin is showcased in a new song and dance revue at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Conceived and written by Ray Roderick, with musical arrangements by Rick Hip-Flores, "'S Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical" is a joyful odyssey through the different times, places and styles of the music of the most successful songwriting team in history. The revue is presented in five short, musical episodes, with moods ranging from screwball comedy to bittersweet and the perils of young love.

The show previews Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 4-5, and opens Friday, Sept. 6, at OCT, First and Hargadine streets in Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Sept. 4, then 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays and 1 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 3. Preview tickets cost $19; bistro seats cost $20; and all other tickets cost $33 to $37. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, online at www.oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902.

The cast of singers and dancers, featuring Galen Schloming, Mikey Perdue, Catie Marron, Britney Simpson and Madelyn Adams, team up to perform Roderick's and Hip-Flores' musical featuring dozens of songs by Ira and George Gershwin. Oregon Cabaret Artistic Director Jim Giancarlo directs and choreographs the production. Musical director is John Taylor.

The production features more than 40 songs by the Gershwin brothers, including such favorites as "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Our Love is Here to Stay," Embraceable You," "The Man I Love" and "Summertime," as well as lesser known melodies such as "Boy Wanted," "My Cousin in Milwaukee" and "Somebody From Somewhere."

"It's lots of costumes, lots of music, lots of dance," Giancarlo says. "It's the biggest little show ever."

The action begins in 1928 New York City as a young newspaper typesetter imagines himself as an investigative reporter trailing a mysterious and chic thief. The skit begins with the rhythm of a typewriter tapping to "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "I've Got Rhythm."

"It's a fun little story, with everyone in tap shoes," Giancarlo says.

The second skit takes place in New Orleans in 1957 where Nina, a nightclub singer, has been jilted by her boyfriend. As he sends her postcards from faraway places, she reminisces about Vienna ("By Strauss"), London ("A Foggy Day"), Havana ("Just Another Rhumba") and love gone awry.

The third skit is set in Paris in 1939. A young sailor falls in love with a French girl, and the music transcends to the mood of "An American in Paris" through a haunting ballet.

Then it's to 1940s Hollywood, where a shy, awkward makeup artist imagines the handsome movie star falling for her and whisking her off to stardom. The skit begins and ends with "Funny Face" bracketing more Gershwin favorites.

"The final skit is a straight musical revue," Giancarlo says. "There's no story ... just more of that wonderful music and dance."

"We're using a lot of visual projections to give the feel of the era and each setting," Giancarlo says.

Scenic design is by Craig Hudson. Kody Johnson did the projections, working on the overall design with Hudson and technical director Michael Halderman. Johnson is a Southern Oregon University student who worked with Giancarlo on the SOU production of "Avenue Q."

"I've wanted to do a Gershwin show for so long," Giancarlo says. "The music is so great. Gershwin never goes out of style."

Dinner or brunch is available by advance reservations at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Appetizers, desserts, coffee and other beverages can be served during intermission.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.

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