BY MARILYN JOZWIK
PUBLISHED ON DEC. 19, 2017
Virtually everyone can conjure up the voice of Julie Andrews. Whether she’s singing “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music” or “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” from “My Fair Lady,” Andrews’ pure, pitch-perfect British-accented voice is memorable.
In the show, “Our Favorite Things,” presented recently at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, Taryn Whipple sang some of Andrews’ beloved tunes with a superb voice that easily glided through the yodeling in “Lonely Goatherd,” soared in “The Rain in Spain” and trilled gently in the finale of “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood.”
Joining Whipple for most of the vocals was Don Lobacz, who introduced himself at the opening by saying, “Hi, I’m Don and I sing all the boy parts.”
Accompanied by a solid, three-piece orchestra consisting of Kerry Hart Bieneman on piano and vocals, Steven Rindt on double bass and Jim Ryan on drums, the duo provided 90 minutes of music, jam-packed with more than 30 tunes made famous by Andrews and/or her musicals.
The pair opened the show by introducing themselves during “You and Me” from “Victor, Victoria.” Each subsequent segment, containing several songs from one of Andrews’ notable musicals, was introduced by the pair with some tidbits about the show or the iconic star herself, such as her start as a singer at age 4 and early days in vaudeville.
Andrews was already a stage veteran in London when she came to America to star in her first Broadway musical, “The Boyfriend,” in 1954. The show opened on the eve of her 19th birthday.
Meet ‘The Boyfriend’
Whipple and Lobacz were charming in the numbers they did from “The Boyfriend,” really meshing well with the orchestra on the Flapper Era music, which included a bit of the Charleston dance.
The rest of Act 1 was devoted mostly to two Lerner-Lowe classics, “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot.”
“My Fair Lady” has produced some of the most memorable tunes of all time and the pair performed them wonderfully, starting with Whipple’s taking on a Cockney accent for “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”
Lobacz has a pleasant voice that accented Whipple’s nicely. His vocals were not as strong as Whipple’s, but worked nicely on tunes such as “On the Street Where You Live” and his energetic “I’m Getting Married in the Morning.”
Whipple stretched easily to hit all the high notes in “The Rain in Spain,” as well as “I Could’ve Danced All Night,” an audience favorite.
In the “Camelot” sequence, the arrangements seemed a little thin, but there were several highlights, including Whipple’s effortless trill at the end of “Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and Don and Taryn’s gorgeous rendition of “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Whipple added some cute, bird-like whistling to “What Do the Simple Folks Do?”
Act 2 featured music from Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” closing with tunes from “The Sound of Music.” In the intro to the “Poppins” segment, it was indicated that Andrews thanked Jack Warner for not casting her in the film version of “My Fair Lady” (Audrey Hepburn played the role), which allowed her to take the “Mary Poppins” role for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for 1964.
The audience joined in for “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” as well as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” which they really enjoyed. In the lovely lullaby “Feed the Birds,” Bieneman added a layer of harmony to the duo that gave the tune a rich sound. Bieneman’s vocals were a welcome addition to several numbers, giving them more fullness and depth. She also did well on a couple solo pieces.
Ending the show with tunes from “The Sound of Music,” Andrews’ best-known musical, was a no-brainer. Lobacz indicated that the show had the highest grossing box office sales of all time, adding that Andrews many of the characteristics of Mary Poppins–she was “practically perfect in every way.”
Starting with “Do-Re-Mi” and some audience participation, Whipple moved into “The Sound of Music” with added subtle harmony from Bieneman and Lobacz.
Lovely to look at
In “The Lonely Goatherd,” Whipple slid through the roller coaster of yodeling as easily as a sled down an icy hill. Lobacz added guitar on the acoustic “Edelweiss,” while Whipple showed off her skill on the violin.
Whipple sounded most like Andrews in “My Favorite Things” and ended the show with “Climb Every Mountain.” Though the latter was not sung by Andrews in the film, it was a perfect finale to the show.
Whipple looked gorgeous in her black velvet and satin gown with glittering jewelry to open the show. Lobacz joined her in a handsome light gray suit with a lavender shirt. While a good-looking outfit, it looked pale next to Whipple’s. The bow-tie tux in Act Two was a much better look paired with Whipple’s lacy black gown.
The show moved at a quick, lively pace, with nary a bobble to be seen or heard, professional in every way. Though the pair were musically comfortable, it would have been good to see the duo loosen up a bit and be a little more spontaneous with each other and the audience. A bit more comedy, perhaps in the introductions to the segments, would have been welcome also.
Sunset’s cabaret space is a wonderful venue with an updated sound system that showcased the music while not overwhelming the audience.