If there's a place called Heaven that we enter after we die, and if we are met there by a heavenly choir, that choir will surely sound something like Antonia Darlene singing "Let It Be" in Harlequin Productions' musical revue "Sixties Kicks."
Her performance on this song is a transformative experience; it lifts you to another plane and sets you back down feeling speechless and breathless. And this is but one performance in a show of mostly magnificent performances.
Every summer, Harlequin puts on an original musical revue. The show may be a tribute piece, such as those in recent years that honored Atlantic Records and Motown. Or, as it was last summer, the revue can be a compilation of hits by 1960s girl groups. This year, they return again to the ’60s with a lineup that includes songs by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and many others from that rocking decade.
There is no dialogue and no story line. Historical highlights from the era are projected on the wall behind the band. The band – essentially the same band every year – is very likely the best house band south of Seattle. It is made up of David Broyles on guitar; Rick Jarvela on bass; Maria Joyner on drums; Brad Schrandt on keyboard and horns; and Bruce Whitney on keyboard and acoustic guitar as well as serving as musical director.
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The cast is Darlene, Kate Dinsmore, Mike Lengel, Alison Monda and Matt Posner. They’re all good; some much beyond good. I’ve already mentioned how stupefying Darlene was on “Let It Be.” She’s outstanding on other songs, too, as is Dinsmore, especially on another Beatles hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and on “Do You Believe in Magic.”
The two who really light up the stage are Monda and Posner. Posner is simply a fabulous singer who puts his heart into every song he sings. He’s mesmerizing on the Simon & Garfunkel anthem “America.” He stands out in the chorus on the Beach Boys’ medley “I Get Around/Fun, Fun, Fun,/Good Vibrations.” He sounds like the Beach Boys – all five of them. He’s mesmerizing on “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and rocks with raw energy on the Stones’ “Satisfaction.” If there’s a singer anywhere in the South Sound who can slip in and out of varying styles as easily as Posner, I’ve yet to run across him or her.
Monda electrifies the house with her energy. I’ve seen her more often as a member of the ensemble or in dramatic and comedic roles. I had no idea she could sing rock and roll with such power. Her rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” is fabulous, and her dancing is so energetic and enthusiastic that’s it’s hard to resist jumping on your feet and joining her on stage.
Finally there is Lengel, who in the first act doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the cast. For starters, he stands head and shoulders above the rest (someone said he is 6-foot-8), but he doesn’t use that height to advantage. His first solo is a nice but subdued version of the Harry Nilsson hit “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” from “Midnight Cowboy.” And then he’s a big letdown on “Light My Fire.” He sings it nicely, but he’s far too restrained. I wanted to hear him scream out “Fii –yah!” the way Jim Morrison did.
Thankfully, in the second act he more than made up for whatever might have been missing in the first act. He does a wonderful job of soloing on a couple of Bob Dylan songs, most notably “All Along the Watchtower.” He’s also outstanding on “Honky Tonk Woman.”
This is a follow-up to last year’s “Sixties Chicks,” which was in many ways the weakest of Harlequin’s many summer music revues. I was particularly let down by the costuming last summer. Not so this summer. Ingrid Pugh-Goodwin nailed the ’60s styles with high theatrical flair.
Unless you’re stone-cold deaf, you’ll leave the theater thoroughly satiated, and you’ll be humming these tunes for weeks to come.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through July 17
Where: State Theater, 202 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia
Information: 360-786-0151; www.harlequinproductions.org