“You know, they don’t write love songs like they used to,” my dad would say to me when I was growing up.
And I would roll my teenage eyes at him.
The music he was talking about sounded old fashioned to me back then; in comparison to the energy of rock ‘n’ roll, they were sappy and syrupy.
To me, they were bad productions, overly heavy on strings.
My taste did change and mature over the years, and I grew to appreciate the “old songs.”
Watching “Beguiled Again: Songs of Rodgers and Hart” at Florida Repertory’s ArtStage Studio, I have to agree: my dad had a point.
And I wish he was still around, because I suspect he would have loved this as much as I did.
The show, running through Oct. 29, features the music of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Rodgers’s compelling melodies were the perfect marriage for Hart’s clever lyrics of longing and love.
And this two-act revue showcases over 50 of them, classic tunes that have withstood the decades and the passing musical trends.
It features tunes such as “My Funny Valentine,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Where or When,” “The Lady is a Tramp.”
And even if you may not recognize all the titles listed in the playbill, you immediately recognize the songs when they begin.
They are performed by six singers — three men, three women — accompanied by musical director Andrew Smithson on piano and Miguel Azcuy on drums. The tunes are grouped together in various scenes, such as Radio Days, Hollywood Dreams, Sophistication — Unrequited Love, Falling Out of Love and The Search for True Love.
The show was conceived in the late ’90s by J. Barry Lewis, Lynnette Barkley and Craig D. Ames, with musical arrangements by Ames.
Hart’s lyrics express his longing for love — something that eluded him throughout his short life.
“Beguiled Again” doesn’t give us biographical information about the two men, though we are given some scenes where Logan Marks acts as Hart, trying out lyrics and shaping songs with Rodgers (Smithson, behind the keyboard.)
One of the more interesting things about this show is that it presents three different versions of “Blue Moon” before giving us the version with the lyrics we now know.
We get to hear Hart’s various attempts as he struggles to find just the right words. One version divides a day into three acts, describing a person going to work in New York.
The radio section features the three women: Halley Daigle Saez, Kim Morgan Dean and Carolann M. Sanita singing in three-part harmony on the Rodgers and Hart Show and swooning over the day’s guest crooner, Eddie Fontaine (played humorously by Jonathan Brugioni.)
Fontaine has performance anxiety, but when it comes to singing, he whips off his glasses, and, like Clark Kent transforming into Superman, is suddenly a suave heartthrob.
He sings “With a Song in My Heart” and “Manhattan,” the latter, sung with Sanita, being as much a love song to the city as it is to love. Not only do the lyrics name various streets — Mott and Delancey, as well as the areas of Coney Island, Greenwich and Bowling Green — but demonstrates Hart’s wonderful internal rhyming, with his lines, “We’ll take Manhattan/The Bronx and Staten Island too.”
Gibson, as a leading man in Hollywood, sings “My Heart Stood Still” so tenderly, that time seems to stop.
This entire show is such a treasure of riches that it’s difficult to pull out highlights.
And it’s so full of delights that the evening just speeds by.
The three women sing a moving version of “My Funny Valentine.” Saez demonstrates she can belt on “Ten Cents a Dance.”
There are moments of levity: “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You” performed as a game of musical chairs; the singers imitating farm animals in “Mountain Greenery;” a thruple singing a love song. There’s also a group striptease, one of the most wholesome and funniest I’ve seen.
Under the skilled direction of Michael Marotta, who himself performed in the original “Beguiled Again” in the ’90s, this is a smart, nuanced production, full of class, elegance and wit. He choreographed the show too, which includes a couple of tap dance numbers.
The only false note was in Act II, in an arrangement of four tunes. To me, if felt as if the songs were battling each other.
But I was in the minority, as the audience responded enthusiastically.
The voices are all top-notch; the singers do solos, duets, trios, quartets. All six performers know how to interpret these timeless lyrics and have great chemistry together.
But when the entire company performs “Falling in Love with Love” acapella in six-part harmony, it is almost unbearably exquisite.
The set (Aaron Jackson) is simple and sophisticated, with Art Deco sconces and a silhouette of New York City on a wall, with the familiar shapes of the Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge.
And the costumes (Brad Musgrove) help set you in the time period too, with great attention to detail, whether it’s the two-tone shoes on the men, the patterned frocks of the women, or the 1940s underwear, including sock garters for the men.
The sound (Katie Lowe) is also superb; you can hear every word of every lyric.
“Beguiled Again” is a show that is unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. And, captivated, we find our own hearts responding.
The songs of Rodgers and Hart will leave you entranced and spellbound. And yes, beguiled again. ¦
In the KNOW
Beguiled Again: Songs of Rodgers and Hart
When: through Oct. 29
Where: ArtStage Studio, Bay Street between Jackson and Hendry
Information: 239-332-4488 or www.FloridaRep.org