Wedding Planner

Review: Heather on the Hill at Glocca Morra

Tired of Cardie B and Harry Styles? Got your fill of Eminem and Taylor Swift? Then I have a remedy for you – The Great American Songbook will lift your spirits and imbue your life with that patented Broadway bounce. If you can’t get enough of famous musicians and lyricists such as Burton Lane, Vernon Duke, Kurt Weill, Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe and EY Harburg, then rush over to Ovations Night Club for the next two Monday nights where Paul Hope Cabaret takes center stage with its sparkling revue Heather on the hill at Glocca Morra.

Hey, wait a minute, I hear you Broadway babies say, Heather is from Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon and Glocca Morra is from Harburg and Lane’s Finian’s Rainbow. What’s up, Hope? Well, Hope is a theater baby from Houston who knows his story, his dish and all, and he’s put together a combo revue, a doubleheader he calls it, that celebrates the work of Broadway musical stars ( and Hollywood) aforementioned and their collaborative efforts – Burton Lane with “Yip” Harburg (Finian’s Rainbow), Harburg with Vernon Duke (“April in Paris” by Walk a little faster), Lerner with Weill (Love life), Lerner with Loewe (selections from Paint your wagon and Brigadoon), and Harburg with Harold Arlen (“Lydia the tattooed woman” from the Marx Brothers’ A day at the races) and Harburg with Jay Gourney in the Depression-era anthem “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”. It is a rich and varied magazine like all the others.

Of course what’s a musical without singers? Hope provided this with a Who’s Who of past reviews: Brian Chambers, Seth Cunningham, Richard Paul Fink, Grace Givens, Susan Shofner (who’s been MIA for the past few seasons, so great to have her back on stage) , Tamara Siler, and a bright new star in Lauren Salazar. Where does she come from and when can we see her next? What a find. What a voice. A natural performer with stage presence to spare, her voice is creamy and lush. Listen to his rendition of “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” of Lane and Harburg. with this slight Scottish burr and its pianissimo. Perfection. Or listen to his vigorous comedy take on “The Love of My Life,” also from Brigadoon, as she recounts her constant failures to find her man. Delicious.

On the agile piano of Jim Benton, the others rise to his level. Fink opera baritone does not need amplification. His powerful voice is a force of nature, but he is also a very subtle actor. Hear the heartbreak in “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” from the 1932 musical revue Americana, which, after recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee, turned the anthem of shattered dreams into a smash hit. Hear her raw, unforced power in Lerner and Loewe’s “They Call the Wind Maria” Paint your wagon. Fink gently ends it with a prayer: “Blow me away my love.” Dramatic and wonderfully scary.

Siler shines in his bass version of “Economics,” from the forgotten Weill/Lerner 1948 Love Life, one of the earliest concept musicals, and in the hot-to-trot “Necessity” of Finian Rainbow. Smooth Brian Chambers finds the right comedic smarm in “When I’m Not Around The Girl I Love” from Og the Leprechaun of Finian’s Rainbow and the catchy libido of “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean” by Brigadoon. Givens sparkles with by Finian “Ol’ Devil Moon” and then sings softly of the brigade “Heather on the Hill” as if dreaming. Attractive. Shofner shows off his theater chops with a very thin version of “Look To the Rainbow”; Cunningham purrs through Lerner and Weill’s “Here I’ll Stay” and Duke and Harburg’s delightful “What’s There To Say” Ziegfeld Follies of 1934with that Harburgian line, “My heart is at an impasse, I would even face marriage with you.”

The evening is blessed with special appearances from Houston theater veterans Kevin and Teresa Cooney, who perform the wacky “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” with all the magic the couple exudes; and renowned banjoist/guitarist Ray Rogers elegantly performs the plaintive Lerner/Loewe ballads “I Still See Elisa” and “Wand’rin’ Star”, both Paint your wagon.

It’s almost a family affair in a Paul Hope Cabaret. Hope, actor emeritus of the Alley Theatre, loves his Broadway and always makes it accessible to his audience who swallows the anecdotes, the dish, the behind-the-scenes stories he weaves so well. At 14, Burton Lane was Tin Pan Alley’s youngest professional musician; he also discovered Judy Garland when she was Francis Gumm; Alan Jay Lerner wore gloves to avoid obsessive nail biting; he also had eight wives, not at the same time; Nanette Fabray won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for the Forgotten Love life; and Agnes deMille hated Gene Kelly for eliminating the chorus dance when he filmed Brigadoon in 1954. It’s treats like these that make Hope’s cabaret special and warmly inviting. His own rendition of Lane and Harold Adamson’s “Everything I Have Is Yours” from Astaire’s first musical film dancing lady (1933) is sung with love. Even when they mess up the lines, forget the lyrics and start over, it’s all part of the camaraderie.

If Broadway is your thing, then Heather on the Hill at Glocca Morra will be catnip.

Heather on the Hill at Glocca Morra continues at 7:30 p.m. Monday, October 24 and 31 at Ovations Night Club, 2536 Times Boulevard. For more information, call 713-522-9801 or visit $15 to $25.