An enchanted evening

The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein gets a fresh run through at the Ordway.

Katie Wilber

Peanut butter just isn’t the same without jelly; you hardly ever see Bert if Ernie isn’t there, and what good are Cheerios without milk?

“A Grand Night for Singing,” now playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, pays homage to the great collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Nearly 40 songs are featured, including selections from “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “Cinderella,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Allegro” and “Oklahoma!”

Despite earlier successes, including “Show Boat,” one of the greatest musicals of all time, Hammerstein’s career was going nowhere fast in the 1940s after some not-so-stellar shows. Rodgers’ first professional partner, Lorenz Hart, died in 1943 after the duo averaged two shows a year. With a new partnership came a new era when “Oklahoma!” hit Broadway; it was the first show where the music and dance were necessary to move the story line along. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Instead of having performers come in from all over the country, this six-member cast hails from all over the metro area. Cast members have credits ranging from the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and the Guthrie Theater to the North Star Opera and the Children’s

Theatre Company. The production is staged in the intimate McKnight Theatre at the Ordway.

“A Grand Night for Singing” uses the songs to tell the story in a different context; instead of bringing out a choir of nuns to sing “Maria” from “The Sound of Music,” a man turns it into a wonderful love song. Two Steinway pianos graced the ethereal blue set that included a swinging gold gate with a cursive “R” on one half and an “H” on the other.

The cast moved well, with a diverse array of blocking evident. The performers did not stand through the whole show like a choir, nor did they draw all the attention to their movements, but a few dance breaks livened up the mood.

Norah Long and Angela Timberman gave a hilarious rendition of the “Stepsisters’ Lament,” and “Shall We Dance?,” bringing back memories of middle school dances. The harmonies for “I Have Dreamed” had a gorgeous balance; the melody was clear, but no one part drowned out the others. Some body-mics were scratchy at times, but most problems were fixed right away.