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Timeless Divas! Musical Stars of the Silver Screen

Nearly 60 songs are crammed into "Timeless Divas! Musical Stars of the Siver Screen," a cut-and-paste revue that pays homage to Hollywood musicals of the '30s and '40s.

With:
Performers: Robert Bartley, Terry Burrell, Ruth Gottschall, Rebecca Spencer. Guest: Heather MacRae.

Nearly 60 songs are crammed into “Timeless Divas! Musical Stars of the Siver Screen,” a cut-and-paste revue that pays homage to Hollywood musicals of the ’30s and ’40s. A cast of four — Terry Burrell, Robert Bartley, Ruth Gottschall and Rebecca Spencer — salutes such divas as Judy Garland, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda, plus a few song-and-dance “divos”: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. With no linking narrative, the songs fly by so hurriedly in single-chorus arrangements that there is little room for nuance or emotional involvement.

Burrell follows her mellow Crosby croon “But Beautiful” with the Lena Horne torcher “Stormy Weather” and a standout take on “Taking a Chance on Love.” “Taking a Chance on Love” was an Ethel Waters trademark tune and Burrell, who triumphed with her one-woman tribute to “sweet mama string-bean,” makes it a buoyant declaration.

Doris Day gets short shrift with takes on “Love Me or Leave Me” that fail to reveal the song’s pain and despair and an uptempo “Secret Love” that takes the whispery secret out of the song’s core.

Gottschall captures the zany mayhem that personified Betty Hutton with “Murder, He Says.”

The ladies take an amusing spin with a satirical survey of silver screen sopranos Jane Pow-ell, Deanna Durbin and Kathryn Grayson that winds up with Spencer’s soaring journey “Be-yond the Blue Horizon” in mem-ory of Jeanette MacDonald.

Bartley is a robust baritone given to going over the top; he misses the intimacy in a Crosby ballad, but is at his best with an unforced rendering of Depression hit “Pennies From Heaven.” Bellowing “The Way You Look Tonight” mars the memory of Astaire’s subtle reading to a Gin-ger Rogers crowned with sham-poo.

A decided plus will be the ap-pearances of guest performers who drop in during the run for song and reflection. Opening night wel-comed Heather MacRae, who shared an anecdotal remembrance of father Gordon MacRae, whose smooth baritone seduced Day in a Warner Bros. trilogy and who was picked by Rodgers & Hammer-stein to star in the film versions of “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.” After an amusing remembrance of her dad in curlers in preparation to play Curley, Heather sang “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” She really put the proscenium arch around the song, not only reveal-ing its picturesque rural landscape but mining the core of its ardent romanticism.

Musical accompaniment by Barry Levitt is firm and assured and without flourish. Gowns and tuxes — with a few accessories — provide the singers a smart look.

Quartet winds up with the mellow farewell of “As Time Goes By,” a fond but rather dubi-ous musical commentary on the golden age of the movie musical. All singing? All dancing? All Bogart and Bergman? Oh well, just play it again, Sam! The show will have an open-ended run continuing after the holidays.

Timeless Divas! Musical Stars of the Silver Screen

Triad Theater; capacity 135; $42.50

Production: A ShaRell Prods. presentation of a musical revue. Musical director, Barry Levitt.

Creative: Opened and reviewed Nov. 14, 2004. Running time: 1 HOUR, 25 MINUTES

Cast: Performers: Robert Bartley, Terry Burrell, Ruth Gottschall, Rebecca Spencer. Guest: Heather MacRae.

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