Clockwise from top left: Clay Cartland, Mark Galsky, Lindsey Johr and Leah Sessa.
“Bernstein Lite” at Manalapan’s Plaza Theatre
By Skip Sheffield
Sheer talent overcomes many obstacles. The three-member cast of “Bernstein on Broadway” is overflowing with talent. The show plays through July 29 at the Plaza Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan.
Leonard Bernstein is the composer honored in the musical revue “Bernstein on Broadway.” Singing his songs are Clay Cartland, Lindsey Johr and Leah Sessa.
The obstacles were mostly of the technical variety in the preview performance we saw: missed cues, faulty lighting, less than perfect sound amplification and a skimpy set. Nevertheless the talent of these three young performers, backed by Mark Galsky on piano, is undeniable.
The musicals represented include “West Side Story,” which stands head and shoulders above anything else Bernstein (1918-1990) ever did, paired with Stephen Sondheim. Other selections are from the modestly successful “Peter Pan,” “Candide,” “Wonderful Town” and “On The Town.”
“This is our own version of Bernstein on Broadway,” explained musical director Mark Galsky. “It is unique. You won’t find another like it.”
Director Amy London is not simply presenting a parade of greatest hits. After an overture arranged by Galsky, there are rarities and novelties along with such standards as “Tonight” and “Something’s Coming.” There is also a fair amount of humor and horseplay. The main prankster is Clay Cartland, whose sense of humor and comic timing is as good as his fine tenor voice.
Leah Sessa is an excellent actress with a powerful, wide-ranging belt voice. Lindsey Johr is an operatic soprano who shows her stuff on the notoriously difficult “Glitter and Be Gay” from “Candide.”
In all there are around 30 songs performed in two 45-minute sets. For every silly “Why oh why oh why-o did I ever leave Ohio?” or the downright dumb “Pass the Football” from “Wonderful Town,” there is a heart-tugging “One Hand, One Heart,” with the ladies poignantly recreating the bittersweet Maria-Anita duet.
Leonard Bernstein was a very complicated man. His orchestral and operatic work is even more complex than anything presented here. Think of this as “Bernstein Lite,” and enjoy bright and breezy summer performances by three fresh-faced, irresistible talents.
Tickets are $38. Call 561-588-1820 or go to www.ThePlazaTheatre.net.