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All aboard for a night of Broadway tunes

The Angel "garden cafe" Theatre kicked off its fall and winter season Friday with an interesting change of pace, a musical revue, All Aboard for Broadway. The show is a collection of Broadway tunes, old and new, with narration by theater owner/director Jimmy Ferraro putting it all into historical context.

It's the first non-play since the 55-seat theater's inaugural show in May, Broadway Music, Magic and Jazz. Since that show, there have been three plays, all of them high-energy comedies.

The new show stars theater co-owner Dee Etta Rowe, who recently returned from a stint with a Broadway touring company, and co-stars singers Larry Bond and Jerry Kitterman. They're backed up by five youthful dancers, who also sing.

Ms. Rowe's powerful voice did fine justice to the familiar show tunes, especially Climb Ev'ry Mountain from The Sound of Music, a musical she did with a Broadway company on tour; Memory from Cats; and Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine from Showboat. She, Kitterman and Bond teamed up for fanciful renditions of favorites from The Music Man and Hello, Dolly, among others.

Angel regulars were not surprised by Ms. Rowe's stage command and rich voice. She and husband Jimmy Ferraro give brief performances before every show, to enthusiastic applause.

But many were pleasantly surprised by Bond, who nearly stole the show with The Impossible Dream from Man of LaMancha and a fast-paced rendition of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof. Those who had not seen his stunning portrayal of Sweeney Todd at Richey Suncoast Theatre a couple of years ago may have been hoping only for a capable back-up voice for Ms. Rowe. Instead, they were treated to a tour de force that left them hungry to see him do entire musicals. What a talent!

Kitterman also turned in a nice performance, particularly Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific, though opening night jitters may have been responsible for forgotten lines and melodies. Kitterman was at his best in tandem with his co-stars.

The young dancers, Derek Baxter, Cheryl R. Maughan, Chelle St. Pierre, Myndee Jane Fleury and Katie McGuigan, were at their best singing and dancing in soft shoes to an excerpt from The Wiz, the musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Their more numerous tap routines were a tad heavy-footed and strained. The show would be more fun if the dancers could cut loose with more happy-go-lucky, MTV-style dancing in their comfort zones instead of the less familiar and forced tapping.

The costumes by Ferraro are colorful and numerous.

The Angel's upcoming five-show season includes three musical revues and two plays, both comedies. It will be interesting to see if patrons respond to three floor-show-type presentations in one season.

If they do, All Aboard for Broadway could prove to be a favorite, or, in any event, a pleasant way to spend an evening.