Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 18, 2021

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, “Who Could Ask for Anything More?”

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through July 3, 2021
by Michael J. Moran
Green, Umphress, Tischler, Blackwell & Coleman

Subtitled “The Songs of George Gershwin,” this exuberant revue showcases a wide-ranging selection of that master songwriter’s work performed by a multi-talented and well-balanced cast of Broadway and regional theater (including BSC) veterans, resourcefully directed by BSC founder and artistic director Julianne Boyd, and accompanied by a powerhouse five-piece band under the seasoned and energetic musical direction of Darren R. Cohen.

Presented under an outdoor tent at BSC’s crosstown Production Center (with audience members required to mask and separate parties seated distantly from each other), the concert opens with a lively overture based on themes from “Rhapsody in Blue,” followed by the entire company in a rousing “Love Is Sweeping the Country.” Tasteful choreography by Jeffrey L. Page keeps the cast in motion, and David Lander’s imaginative lighting shows off costume designer Sara Jean Tosetti’s colorful outfits for the singers to brilliant effect.

Musical highlights include: Alysha Umphress displaying her comic chops and vocal versatility in “Little Jazz Bird;” Allison Blackwell’s operatically intense “Summertime;” and Alan Green’s unexpected and dramatic account of Serena’s aria, “My Man’s Gone Now,” from “Porgy and Bess.” Jacob Tischler demonstrates his flexible tenor and a fine flair for physical comedy in “Somebody Loves Me” and “Fascinating Rhythm.” Britney Coleman’s clear, bell-like soprano brings elegance to “S Wonderful” and poignancy to “But Not for Me.” Bassist Mitch Zimmer does a hilarious comic turn with the three women of the cast on “Slap That Bass.”

George’s brother Ira Gershwin’s distinctive lyrics amplify the program’s success, and the cast were sensitive to their every nuance, from Green’s contagious languor in “I’m bidin my time/cause that’s the kind of guy I’m,” to the deadpan humor of Tischler and Umphress singing “You like potato and I like potahto/you like tomato and I like tomahto” in “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,”  to Blackwell’s refreshingly sensuous “The world will pardon my mush/cause I’ve got a crush, my baby, on you.”  

With Covid-safe guidelines in place, who could ask for a lovelier return to live theater than this gem of a production?