British invade new music series at the Sunset Playhouse
It happened at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, Monday or Tuesday (Sept. 20-21), as the Sunset launched its new Musical Mainstage series. The rousing Glad All Over: The British Invasion got a near-capacity Monday crowd at Furlan Auditorium to clap hands and tap toes. (The show played on a stage dressed for The Underpants, the Sunset’s current production, which somehow fit.)
The Sunset Playhouse, a showcase for community theater for 50 years, has launched some new series that feature professionals. Musical Mainstage is one. Monday’s inaugural focused on deft performances of memorable British rock tunes from 1964 — the year the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan’s “really big show.”
The stellar cast included music director/arranger Paula Foley Tillen (also composer in residence at Milwaukee Choral Artists); percussionist Jim Ryan; and Sam Steffke on keyboard. Tommy Hahn, Neil Haven, Peggy Petersen Ryan and Linda Steiber sang tunes made famous by The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Hollies, Moody Blues and Rolling Stones, among other British Invasion bands. Sixteen-year old Haley Haupt, the Sunset’s Rising Star, contributed a solo rendition of To Sir, With Love.
All the singers had at least one solo, and they all struck gold, especially Haven in his moving rendition of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother or and Hahn’s powerful House of the Rising Sun. Peggy Ryan and Steiber connected with the audience in tributes to Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield. All five, including Haupt, collaborated on the Beatles’ ever popular A Little Help From My Friends.
The rest of their season promises to be equally entertaining. It could be interesting to see if the performers themselves will lend more chic to the chatter between numbers in this cabaret atmosphere. In this show, narrators Susan Dwyer Loveridge and Mark Salentine did the talking. Their charm grew as the show went on.
All in all, this was an evening of serious fun. But one concern: Why no 1970s songs from Freddie Mercury and Queen?
The next Musical Mainstage, Time Capsule: The Forties, is set for Nov. 1 and 2. Jingle Jive is coming to town Dec. 13 and 14. For tickets and further information, click on the links or call the Sunset, 262-782-4430.