“Born to Sing” a Refreshing Celebration of Victor Herbert

It was just a rehearsal at The Lambs Club featuring a “reading of one hour of songs from the show,” but there was plenty of evidence that Dall Wilson’s “Born to Sing” is a promising work-in-progress that skillfully tips its hat to the music of Victor Herbert, while providing an original book and lyrics by Wilson. Utilizing the original lovely score for “The Fortune Teller,” this new production from Beeswax-Producing Company seems a perfect vehicle for celebrating the 146th birthday of composer, Victor Herbert. The structure is that of “a play within a play,” as performers in present-day Lithuania are rehearsing a new production of 1898’s “The Fortune Teller.”

While the afternoon rehearsal reading I attended was a patchwork of sorts, (clarity of plot was elusive, some portions of the full production were omitted, and some performers bravely substituted for others who were not present), it was clear that the lush Herbert score was the centerpiece for Wilson’s fresh approach to the material. While talented accompanist, Carol Middleton, played Wilson’s demanding piano score, Lambs Eleanor Carney, Gini Dustin and Jacqueline Kroschell (“collie” hostess for this effort) offered fine choral support to talented soloists Lawrence Craig, and Dan Entriken. Mr. Craig’s rich bass performance was particularly noteworthy.

But the dazzling star of this maturing production was clearly its young, beautiful, and very talented leading lady, Elizabeth Cherry, in the role of Birke. Birke’s character is described as “A brilliant singer, the local star. She scoffs at love and toys with men.” If this show moves forward to full production, one must hope Miss Cherry will remain the star. My guest and I were reminded of Kathryn Grayson as we watched the radiant Cherry perform. I found myself thinking what a treat it might be to hear her do the “Only Make-Believe” duet from Showboat in the style of Miss Grayson. Even seated for this run-through, Cherry was bursting with talent, coloratura vocal skill, and animation. She brought a great sense of fun to every number, and was thus a joy to watch and an even greater joy to listen to.

The ensemble work of the cast was top notch, particularly in segments like the complex counterpoints of “Find Out Soon” that close Act I. Lusty numbers like “Heart of the Fight,” might bring to mind such operetta favorites as “Stouthearted Men.” Cherry is again soaring and delightful in a “Do I Dare” that had more strong support from the ensemble. Then there was sweetly melodic cast choral work to complement Craig’s powerful “Dare to Love.” The lilting “I Discover Love” finale was just one more reason to hope this rehearsal was but a giant step toward the future success of “Born to Sing.”

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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