An Irving Berlin Revue
Developed by Richard Hopkins, Rebecca Langford, & Jim Prosser
Directed by Richard Hopkins
Musical Direction by John Franceschina
Florida Studio Theatre/Goldstein Cabaret
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-9000
Through January 3, 2009

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


Two performers new to FST Cabaret join dynamic favorites Janie Jones and Jim Weaver  in Steppin’ Out in high style to the music of Irving Berlin. Ryan Flanigan with his easy voice and slim good looks establishes immediate rapport with the audience as he kicks off “Steppin’” with Weaver.  Powerful vocalist Jones brings on Alison Renee Foster, who alternates between  sophistication and buoyant enthusiasm. She blends with the other three in “Steppin’ Around” and stirring up a “Heat Wave.”  After saluting Berlin as one of his period’s notable immigrants who pursued the American Dream by composing, there’s a limit to patter but not to melody or motion.
Janie and Jim sing “How Deep Is the Ocean?” directly to each other to introduce songs about love. Alison negates it with “He’s Not the Man for Me.” Ryan’s poignant “When I Lost You” reflects Berlin’s sadness after the death of his new wife. A change of mood comes with songs from Annie Get Your Gun. Surprises start with the foursome’s urbane “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” done in a different than usual pace.  Instead of the expected male-female “Anything You Can Do,” Jim and Ryan battle it out. The latter is very impressive holding the longest note.
Harmony abounds in a medley that begins with “Simple Melody” and brings Part I to a “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” conclusion. Part II begins with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and ends with “Steppin’ Out” and “Cheek to Cheek.” In between are the Cabaret’s usual solos, duets, and quartets to such classics as “What’ll I Do?,” “Remember,” “Always.”  Stephen Hope’s choreography explores every possibility throughout of enhancing delivery of lyrics. An offbeat highlight is Ryan’s “Snookie Ookums,” rendered like a monologue with a foreign accent and air of confusion. Steppin’ Out marks Jim Prosser’s 15th anniversary doing piano, arranging, and other creative work for FST—a reason for celebration.
Black and white costumes by Marcella Beckwith (also the;  Scenic Designer) get emphatic lighting from Colleen Jennings. Sound Design is by Eric Stahlhammer. Emily C. Hayes is Stage Manager for the 85 minute production. Director Richard Hopkins has brought all together with noone or nothing “steppin’ out” of line.

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