I have heard music by Rodgers and Hammerstein at a bus station in Logan, Utah; in a casino at Pahrump, Nev.; a truck stop in Eloy, Ariz.; and, well, it doesn't matter where else.
It doesn't matter because regardless of where you are, when you hear the remarkable work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, you are suddenly much brighter and thinking the thoughts of a poet. The music is witty, intelligent, clever and, perhaps most important, brilliantly designed to convey the perfect mood of an exact moment in a musical comedy.
Yet each tune, from "This Nearly Was Mine" to "Don't Marry Me," digs deeper than the plotline requires and becomes a little, three-minute story of its own.
Just listen to the songs presented outside the context of the musical they were written for in "A Grand Night for Singing," a revue built on a lush and well-selected collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. The show, presented by Diablo Theatre Company, plays through Saturday night at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center.
Featuring five performers with extraordinary voices, the show presents the tunes like jewels on velvet. There is no attempt at cobbling some sort of story out of the collection (a la "Mama Mia"). Instead, the songs are delivered beautifully with a brief recollection of the shows they come from. And you are reminded of how beautiful the music is (by Rodgers) and how affecting the lyrics are (by Hammerstein), and how much intellectual and emotional territory the tunes cover, especially when performed by a cast as talented as Diablo Theatre's Noel Anthony, Tielle Baker, Nichole Frydman, Michael Scott Wells and Elise Youssef.
Director and choreographer Terry Barto has his performers moving and dancing around the stage in a manner that lets the music (and the performers) breathe, and musical and vocal director Brandon Adams and his orchestra present the tunes with the richness, nuance and subtlety they deserve.
There is really no need to sell any of the tunes; they do that themselves. And the performers seem to realize that, as they lean back and simply trust the music to create the magic. The result is the best revue I think I have ever seen.
OK, much of the fun I had watching "A Grand Night" was remembering various versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals I've been involved with over the years. But even better than that was realizing how universal the songs were, even presented out of context. I have heard and appreciated various jazz interpretations of these same tunes, but after seeing the show and hearing the songs performed essentially as they were delivered by Rodgers and Hammerstein, I realize the full genius of the duo. It's a grand night, indeed.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.
Conceived by Walter Bobbie, featuring songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, presented by Diablo Theatre Company.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lesher Center for the Arts, Civic Drive at Locust, Walnut Creek
Running time: 2 hours,
Tickets: $47 to $49,
Online: Find Pat Craig's review of "A Child's Christmas In Wales," by Contra Costa Civic Theatre, at www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.