For longtime Stage West Community Playhouse patrons, Bits of Broadway is a walk down memory lane. In a little more than two hours, a score of Stage West players re-enact bits from 26 of the theater's favorite shows from the past 35 years.
For new patrons, it's a chance to see many of Stage West's best players, plus some stage newcomers who may grow to that status in years to come.
Though a few of the bits were a tad shaky in both song and movement on opening night, and the oversized folders the ensemble sometimes held and consulted as they sang could be distracting, the energy, enthusiasm and sheer talent of the other numbers more than made up for all that. (Bits replaced the originally scheduled book musical High Society.)
Among the standouts were excerpts from Les Miserables by gifted singers Victoria Primosch (I Dreamed a Dream), W. Paul Wade (Stars) and Brian Beach (Bring Him Home) and the full ensemble (At the End of the Day and Do You Hear the People Sing?/Finale), All That Jazz from Chicago, and Can't Stop the Beat from Hairspray, thanks in big part to great choreography by Andi Sperduti and Kathy Muriel for the latter two.
Sperduti, a frequent choreographer at the professional Show Palace Dinner Theatre, created a Bob Fosse-like dance for Jazz, in addition to taking on a singing role. And Beat got the house rocking.
Special kudos to Patti Watters, who was scheduled for two solo numbers — People from Funny Girl and Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, both of which she did with tenderness and beauty — but also pitched in at the last moment for two additional numbers, You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel and So in Love from Kiss Me, Kate when the original singer became ill.
Narrators Wade and Lena Burrow provide background between numbers about both the Broadway versions of the excerpts and also the dates they played at Stage West, giving context and refreshing memories. The two collaborated with director Lynda Dilts-Benson in the creation of the narration.
Musical director/conductor Carol Ballard wisely limited most of the numbers to a single or few verses, making room for more songs and more time for the larger numbers.
The program itself has a nice rhythm, with high-energy numbers followed by more sentimental ballads. Act 1 is rather like a Broadway concert, with only a single song and dance bit (One from A Chorus Line). Act 2 is more lively, with dancing and the slight suggestion of place and context in such numbers as But Mr. Adams from 1776, Skid Row from Little Shop of Horrors, Any Dream Will Do from Joseph/Dreamcoat and the zany Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Show.