The patrons of Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City, Missouri found a lot to cheer about when the attended the new musical review, “In the Mood” that features a two-hour almost non-stop barrage of big band music.
The only difference is music is performed by a quartet of musicians and a quartet of vocalists. Each individual involved in the show perform solo parts that displays their performance expertise, starting off with Ken Remmert on percussion who opened the show with a Gene Krupa drum solo. That set the tone for the show to follow. “In the Mood” continues at Quality Hill Playhouse through Feb. 21. The classy venue for musical reviews attracts a growing number of season ticket holders as the selections keep momentum and memberships growing.
Directed by J. Kent Barnhart, “In the Mood” celebrates the American songbook, and this particular show focuses on the big band sounds from the 30s and 40s. Barnhart always selects his vocalists whose voices match the genre of the production. For this he called on three of his Quality Hill semi regulars, Lauren Braton, Melinda MacDonald, and Tim Noland. New to this production, Taylor Avazpour debuts with this show.
As for the musical accompaniment, Barnhart always tickles the ivories while Remmert on drums and Brian Wilson on bass provide solid and inspiring notes. New to this piece, Barnhart added reeds, played by Matt Baldwin. The reeds produced a slicker level to the production and were needed to highlight the music of such bandleaders as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, the Dorsey’s and more.
Probably the most difficult part of this production was music selection by Barnhart. So many of his patrons have fond memories of this music and like specific band leaders’ music and specific vocalists associated with those bands. A two hour show cannot cover all of them and the vast songs they recorded. Similarly, the vocalists of the time all had signature numbers that audiences associate with them. For this show, Barnhart stuck primarily to knows standards and did not include obscure pieces.
Tim Noland dialed down his strong voice to perform the Hoagy Carmichael classic, “Star Dust” and then let loose a little more with “I Don’t Want to Walk without You.” Both garnered loud audience approval. Not to be outdone, Taylor Avazpour delivered two Frank Sinatra classics, Imagination” and “I’ll Never Smile Again.” As for the women, Lauren Braton let loose on Serenade in Blue” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” Melinda MacDonald used the low register of her powerful soprano voice for “Don’t Blame Me,” “Moonglow,” and the up-tempo jazzy, “Slap that Bass.” Each of the soloists held center stage as they performed. All gave outstanding solo performances and then blended their voices to belt out other memorable tunes like “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “And the Angels Sing,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Route 66,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “Tuxedo Junctions,” “In the Mood,” and more.
Equal to the vocals of the night, the 4-piece quartet nailed the performances and genre of the big bands, and with only four instruments their performances need to be bold and crisp. All succeeded. The only thing missing for the evening was a piece that featured Barnhart. All expect him to dazzle with his piano skills and arrangements. But, then, this was the Big Band sounds, and pianos were not featured in many of those bands. For this show, he let the others grab the spotlight and it paid off with a collection of musical standards so pleasing to the audience and so fast paced that his contribution just tied the whole performance with a bow. Remmert, Wilson, and Baldwin each performed instrumental solos within several pieces as did the original big band musicians.
“In the Mood” definitely aims toward an older audience, but anyone would enjoy this show, from children to super-seniors. The show is fast, well lit, well directed, and flows seamlessly from piece to piece. The evening ends with people smiling as the final song “In the Mood” in their minds. The show goes quickly with a 15 minute intermission, and ticket sales are very brisk, Barnhart said.
Do not miss your chance to see a musical review/cabaret show that features the classics of the music America danced to before, during, and after WWII. Call or go online for tickets and secure them before they are sold out. This show could sell out as word of mouth spreads. For tickets, check out the Quality Hill Playhouse website for times, dates, tickets, and more. “In the Mood” closes Feb. 21.