Producer Alan Campbell was charming—and disarmingly frank—when he pitched this Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy season closer in his curtain speech two weeks ago: "It's a night of songs from a lot of popular Broadway shows ... that we're waaay too small to do!" The candor is appreciated, but the question remains: What sets this two-night concert event apart from the common cabaret of afterthoughts?
A decidedly ambitious set list, for starters, ranging from Chicago's "Cell Block Tango" to the title track from Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George. Along with predictable old-school entries from West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Purlie are tasty obscurities from works such as Parade and Side Show, plus numbers from recent runs including Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, Rent and Wicked. (Omit Andrew Lloyd Webber.) Then close the show with a Spamalot tribute featuring Campbell as King Arthur and regional actor/ singer Yolanda Rabun as the Lady of the Lake.
An ensemble of 15, including New York actors Ray Walker and Lisa Jolley, should make this production anything but Steve & Eydie at the Sands, in a two-night stand in Raleigh before two nights at Barton College in Wilson this weekend. —Byron Woods