Theatre Raleigh’s Oh What A Night! has become somewhat of a local tradition. And, this year’s production- one of the first in the area to take place on a live stage since COVID- does not disappoint. Directed and choreographed by Lauren Kennedy Brady, this mash-up of medleys, performed by some of the area’s most promising local talent, is pure delight.
The show opens with the hopeful “There Will Be Light” from Next to Normal, setting the perfect tone both for the show itself and for the current times. Not only does the number serve as a beacon of hope, but it also reflects the theatre’s current transition to a new and promising space. And, while this space is still a work in progress, the production makes the most of it, thanks in large part to ambient lighting touches from Jeremy Diamond.
Also reflecting modern times is the wonderfully diverse cast. The performers encompass a wide range of races, ages, and body types, but the one thing they all have in common? Incredible vocal talent!
And, while every song in this mix-tape of a show is well-done and fun, there are certainly some standouts. Anna Wentworth provides a powerful and moving rendition of “Me And The Sky” from Come From Away, only to later show her softer range in “You’ve Got A Friend” from Beautiful. Likewise, Matt Sheaffer nails the longtime favorite “Purpose” from Avenue Q with his commanding presence. Another standout is Gerard M. Williams. His exceptional stage presence carries Hamilton’s “Dear Theodosia.” Other noticeable numbers include the talent-packed “Requiem” from Dear Evan Hanson and “Don’t Lose Ur Head” from Six. This girl power-fueled performance is made even more fun by Kishara McKnight’s costuming choices and the bubbly pop band style choreography.
What is most interesting here, however, is the fact that “smaller” songs have been chosen. For the most part, these numbers are not the big ones that people think of when they think of the accompanying production. Instead, they are songs that typically get lost in the shuffle, songs that are not often given a chance to shine. But, here, they are brought into the light, as is their beauty. Viewers get to see and hear these songs in a brand new way, which makes for an entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful evening.
It is on this thoughtful, contemplative note that the show ends. Faith Jones delivers the bulk of “Somehwere” from West Side Story with grace, hopefulness, and honesty, all of which are the same qualities this spirited production aims to evoke.
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