‘A Grand Night for Singing’ running through Jan. 12

Photo courtesy Jeff Laydon

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company closed a well-attended run of its original holiday music revue, “A Very Perry Christmas,” on Christmas Eve, with an appreciative full-house audience singing along with the three dozen holiday songs arranged by musical directors Bob Hemenger and Perry Davis Harper, and performed by Harper; his wife, Amy; their children; and a cast totaling 21 adults and children, with a live five-piece backup band. This marked the first original musical production at Thingamajig to be spearheaded by the Harper family, but hopefully not the last.
Thingamajig’s winter 2019-2020 season continues at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts (PSCA) with the five-actor production of “A Grand Night for Singing,” another musical revue featuring Perry and Amy Harper, plus actor-vocalists Jesse McFarland, Jessi Miller and Cassidy Giddens, also backed up by a compact live orchestra with Paula Millar on piano, James Kiker on bass, Jean Broderick on cello, Grace Weirsma on woodwinds, and Joanie Knabb on drums and keyboard.
The show opened just before Christmas to a sold-out crowd and continues tonight, Thursday, Jan. 2, running through Jan. 12. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.
Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II have been called, by some fans of American musical theater, the greatest writing partnership of the 20th century. They worked as a team from 1943 until 1959, producing some of Broadway’s best-known musicals, including “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and their final collaboration, “The Sound of Music.”
Said Thingamajig Artistic Director Tim Moore, “Seeing ‘Grand Night’ in rehearsal I knew we had something for our audience that was unique and special. But on opening night, I was not prepared for how much this music spoke to our audience. These are the songs and show they grew up with, all wrapped up in fresh, contemporary arrangements that breathe new life in the classics that built the American theater songbook. ‘Grand Night’ is absolutely one of my favorite offerings we’ve produced to date.”
The original Broadway production, conceived by Walter Bobbie, opened in 1993 and was nominated for two Tony Awards, for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue. Like the Broadway original, Thingamajig’s “Grand Night” is a revue of selected Rodgers and Hammerstein compositions, including many song favorites from their hit musicals, as well as numbers from their lesser known, but still successful, shows such as “Flower Drum Song” and “State Fair.”
Scenic Designer Laura Moore, Lighting Designer Elaine Wong, Costume Designer Adrienne Young and Director Andrew Barratt Lewis have kept everything tastefully simple, staging the action with the orchestra members in the rear and using a minimum of stage pieces and props, letting the music itself shine without any clutter. Although the songs will be familiar, the music takes off from the original versions, specially arranged to incorporate the whole cast, instead of being a series of solos and duets, with complex harmonies and rhythms that make the music fresh and exciting, more than half a century after the original shows appeared on Broadway.
That is to say, the show is all about the music itself.
Thingamajig’s 2019-2020 winter season will continue with a readers-theater version of “The Texas Homecoming Revolution of 1995,” a hilarious comedy by playwright Jennifer Faletto that was workshopped at Thingamajig Theatre’s 2018 Playwright Festival. It takes the audience on a laugh-out-loud visit to the stalls of the girls’ restroom in a Texas high school, where all the secrets unfold. “The Texas Homecoming Revolution” opens Jan. 31 and runs through Feb. 9.
Tickets for “A Grand Night for Singing” and “The Texas Homecoming Revolution of 1995” can be purchased on the PSCA website, https://pagosacenter.org, or by calling the box office at 731-7469 (SHOW).
Thingamajig Theatre Company is an award-winning professional nonprofit theater in residence within the PSCA. Its talented actors, directors and designers come from across the U.S. and around the world to produce musicals, comedies and dramas year-round.
The theater was co-founded in 2010 by the Moores, both extraordinary actors and directors in their own right. Their mission is to provide high-quality theater experiences at a low cost to our community, thereby making art accessible as well as providing a major economic driver for Pagosa’s tourism industry.

This story was posted on January 2, 2020.