Forgive me, muses, for I have sinned.
I have lived in Lexington for two decades now — half of my life — and not once had I attended the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s “It’s A Grand Night for Singing!,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
After seeing a Sunday matinee performance of the talent-packed musical showcase, I am experiencing retroactive regret for all the times I didn’t attend. I promise to repent.
This year’s show features about 30 diverse musical numbers that highlight the breadth and depth of the musical talent that the UK Opera Theatre attracts to the region, as well as performers from the community. Entertaining, fun and, at times, stirring, the high-energy showcase is a must-see concert for even the most casual admirer of musical theater and opera.
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Before the show even started, I noticed how Robert Pickering’s classy and versatile set design, along with Tanya Harper’s lighting design, blended to create a changeable palette of upscale glitz and glamor. I felt like I was about to watch a televised award show, or maybe some classic variety show from the 1960s.
The opening number, “Show People” from the musical “Curtains,” set the tone for the two-and-a-half hour extravaganza. Elegant silver evening wear for the ladies and formal wear for the men by Susan Dudley Wigglesworth brought the requisite sparkle of show business to the stage. Wigglesworth’s costuming is no small feat, with more than 30 numbers each requiring a unique approach to design.
Yes, designers play a huge role in the show’s success, but the star of the show is the music itself.
I enjoyed some numbers more than others, and I was generally impressed with the eye for diversity and balance among the performers and musical styles.
For instance, after the large-scale opening number, director Peggy Stamps dials the energy back with a stirring, restrained solo performance of “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” by Darian Sanders, before letting a trio of women — Greta Rosenstock, Gabrielle Barker and Jessica Bayne —deliver an entertaining rendition of “Matchmaker” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
A cast of youngsters delivers a sweet and delicate rendition of Matilda’s “Quiet,” before the stage is once again filled with color and choreography in a rousing performance of “Lullabye of Broadway” from “42nd Street,” one of the many toe-tapping numbers in which Lyndy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith’s choreography brighten the stage.
From soaring solos like soprano Junghyun Lee’s “The Sound of Music” to behemoth numbers like “One” from “A Chorus Line,” the evening featured a satisfying variety of works that showcased the department and community’s talent.
My personal favorite of the evening was “Kiss of the Spider Woman” from the musical of the same name, with Gregory Turay, Matthew Pearce and Michael Preacely delivering a foreboding number with power and precision.
The 25th installment of the event packed more than 1,000 attendees into the Singletary Center for the Arts for each of the opening weekend’s three performances. After attending only one time, it is easy to see why.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.
‘It’s a Grand Night for Singing!’
What: Musical revue presented by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. June 16, 17, 2 p.m. June 18
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.
Tickets: $45 adults, $40 seniors