Developed by Richard Hopkins, Rebecca Langford,  Jim Prosser
Directed and Choreographed by Bill Castellino
Florida Studio Theatre's Goldstein Cabaret
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-9000; Feb. 9-March 20, 2010

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Two sets of performers scan a decade and a half of American pop songs to show how they were "Reflections" of what was going on in the world. It's announced that in 1959 favorite singers were Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. The next year brought in revolutionary change: Motown. Befitting the '60s of the Civil Rights movement, the singers are black (Robert H. Fowler, Natalie Renee) and white (Job Christenson, Melissa Fleming). All equally share solos and lyric dramatizations, interspersed with comments about their being interwoven with time-appropriate historical events. The show begins and ends with "Dancin' in the Street."  In between there's a lot of hip shaking in Act I with The Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and Reeves and The Vandellas' "Heat Wave."  Treatments generally get more serious in Act II with the songs from middle to late '60s and 1970's like "Heaven Help Us All" and a plaintive "I'll Be There."


Highlights include "Stand By Me" of '61 (done three times, once out in the clapping audience),  a much counterpointed "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and several Stevie Wonder hits (one done especially effectively by Fowler). "Please, Mr. Postman," sung in the context of soldiers in Viet Nam awaiting mail from home, blends drama and comedy. Renee's treatment of "Feelin' Good" recalls Nina Simone . Christenson is the soloist to watch for facial expressions. They're helped by mood-changing  through the color and sparkling lights of a backdrop by Nicole Lee. She also designed  two bold sets in each act of  satiny black sheaths for the women and men's  jackets and trousers, with slashes of fuchsia, blue, green, purple in jewelry and fabric insets.


Pianist Jim Prosser performs unobtrusively to one side of the small stage with little of the varied light designer Colleen Jennings provides for the singers. John Franceschina directs the music. John Valines  is responsible for the sound design.  Everything is over-amped for the cabaret space and music at intermission is so loud that conversation is almost impossible. During the cold spell when "Reflections" debuted, earmuffs must have come in doubly handy!


Dru Harwood and Barbara Gantt are Stage Managers for the hour and a half original show.

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