‘For Lovers Only’ celebrates songs of love and romance

By Jennifer Farrar, Gaea News Network
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

‘For Lovers Only’ celebrates romance, love songs

NEW YORK — Listening to highlights of more than 90 famous love songs in less than two hours is like getting a lot of icing and a little cake. Such is the tantalizing effect of the new off-Broadway musical revue “For Lovers Only (Love Songs … Nothing But Love Songs).”

Combining the considerable talents of five accomplished singers and two hardworking pianists, this pastiche is a witty homage to familiar 20th century songs about love and romance, selected from the American songbook and spotlighting Broadway shows, movies and popular music.

The cast members, all with plenty of experience both on and off Broadway, display easy polish and sophistication in their performances. Glenn Seven Allen, Monica L. Patton, Dominique Plaisant, Trisha Rapier and Kevin Vortmann each bring their own finesse to the ensemble. The musical director, Ken Lundie, is a charming presence, energetically playing an upright piano onstage, along with Mark Akens on a second keyboard.

The singers practically bat their song snippets back and forth in the first act, swiftly covering nearly 60 tunes ranging from Irving Berlin’s 1923 “What’ll I Do” through 1970s hits like Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and several by Stephen Sondheim. In between, they gallop through refrains from much-loved songs written by George and Ira Gershwin, Jule Styne, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Arrangements and choreography often lean toward the wry or whimsical.

At times, the singers act as paired-off — even cheesed-off — lovers, and sing to one another. In the second act, the program slows down to present several longer songs, providing a more robust emotional experience for the audience.

Plaisant is outstanding, delivering a couple of near show-stoppers with “Do Right Woman” and “The Rose.” Rapier, who also acts as a sort of onstage hostess at New World Stages, belts out a strong version of “My Man,” while Patton displays her chops with “Men” and “River Deep Mountain High.” The men also shine in solos. Allen beautifully sings “This Nearly Was Mine,” and Vortmann gives a big rendition of “And This Is My Beloved.”

Christopher Scott directed and choreographed the fast-paced production. Nancy Friday conceived the show, saying in a program note that she was inspired by youthful recollections of belting out love songs while riding her bicycle to school.

This musical cavalcade is a lot of fun, reminding the audience that “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

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