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Theater Review: “American Rhythm: 100 Years of Amazing Music”

“American Rhythm: 100 Years of Amazing Music” is an updated version of their popular 2000 show highlighting a century’s worth of the history and music of this country.
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Lamb's Players Theatre

Wow.

That’s likely to be your response to the most recent incarnation of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s salute to American music.

“American Rhythm: 100 Years of Amazing Music” is an updated version of their popular 2000 show highlighting a century’s worth of the history and music of this country. The show, written and arranged by Kerry Meads and Vanda Eggington, is directed by Meads and has already been extended through Aug. 7 by popular demand.

Small wonder. With a talented cast of ten singer/dancers and a terrific band of seven, you’ll probably leave humming medleys of songs in varied indigenous styles like barbershop, ragtime, jazz, swing, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll.

This time they’re using projected images, so that when a barbershop quartet moves into a set of songs from World War I (the “War to End All Wars,” remember?), you’ll see archival footage above the stage.

I found the images largely distracting and fuzzy, but people sitting closer to them said they did not seem unclear, so your mileage may vary.

The most spectacular section is still the speakeasy scene from the ‘20s, with the women in fabulous brightly-colored Jeanne Reith-designed dresses and the guys in suits.

And oh, those dances! By the way, Colleen Kollar Smith (along with Siri Hafso and Luke Harvey Jacobs) created all new choreography for this show.

Ah, then the the stock market crash, the Dust Bowl and the dislocations caused by that and the Depression that followed. And here’s a quote that sounds strangely contemporary: “We got a guy in Washington more interested in the pocketbooks of the rich than the bellies of the poor.”

Solos are interspersed throughout, and a special bravo to Kiana Bell and Benjamin Roy, whose huge voices and great gospel-style delivery are thrilling.

Sandy Campbell gets some great solo time as well, as does Caitie Grady.

This year two spectacular dancers – Siri Hafso and Luke Harvey Jacobs – made my jaw drop more than once. That’s not to stiff everybody else’s efforts, but you’ll see what I mean.

Lamb’s Players Theatre seldom disappoints, especially in musical shows. This is one of their best.

The details

“American Rhythm: 100 Years of Amazing Music” plays through August 7, 2016 at Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue in Coronado.

Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 p.m; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org