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LIGHTNING REVIEW: Singers, musicians nail music of the movies

The cast of 'Cinematastic' brings movie music to life. [PHOTO BY SCOTT TREADWAY] The cast of 'Cinematastic' brings movie music to life. [PHOTO BY SCOTT TREADWAY]

The Flat Rock Playhouse’s latest production brings a sampling of cinema history to life in a way that brings the audience to its feet and leaves them soaring. Iconic songs from classic movies are revived for the stage by the endlessly gifted Matthew Glover.

Not only the creator, director and choreographer of this orchestral variety show, Glover is also part of the main cast.

A large, profoundly talented cast is backed by a flawless chorus and exceptional eleven-piece band. All framed by the up-cycled asymmetrical partitions from “All Shook Up.” In a premiere refreshingly free of technical errors, pacing problems and missing set pieces, “Cinematastic” hooked the audience from the opening and only released them, dazed and nostalgic, at curtain call.

Fittingly, the performance begins with the “Fox 20th Century Theme Song,” an opening everyone can recognize. Glover’s following line-up includes a song for every taste. From the achingly sweet “My Heart Will Go On” of “Titanic” fame, to the adrenaline inducing “Danger Zone,” featured in “Top Gun,” Glover varies fast paced with slow, and occasionally throws in seamless mashups of famous soundtracks that transition just gradually enough for viewers to recognize — and excitedly whisper to their neighbor — the movie title.

Interspersed with the musical numbers are informative clips in black and white, featuring various members of the cast and projected hugely on the backdrop to the band. Short monologues give a few facts about the composer or movie being showcased, and the interruptions are timed so the room’s energy never lags. The dialogue adds depth and thought without detracting from the overall experience.

The show is an enchanting experience made possible by every band member, chorus member and lead singer who stepped on stage. And while there isn’t space enough to acknowledge each one, a few standouts deserve mention.

Maddie Franke, recognizable for her chorus roles in previous productions this season, is assistant choreographer and dance captain in “Cinematastic.” She and Matthew Glover nail a duet set to “Cheek to Cheek” (from “Top Hat”), and she’s again featured in a trio with Dan Lusardi and James Du Chateau, all flinging around bright yellow raincoats to “Good Morning”, from “Singin’ in the Rain.” Franke makes the most of her well-earned place in the downstage spotlight.

Alfred Jackson gets the crowd clapping along to his solo rendition of “Stayin’ Alive” (“Saturday Night Fever”). Jackson manages to pull off quite a bit of fancy footwork without tripping up his incredible voice, a feat that elicited a cheer from the premiere audience. His charisma is unstoppable.

Music director and keyboardist Stephen Purdy leads the band, the crux of the production and, seemingly, a never tiring one. Quite the opposite, in fact. Glover makes sure to feature the band, without dancers or singers to distract, when cinematic scores, rather than famous lyrics, are the focus. And when guitarist Bill Altman stepped forward from his shadowy seat upstage to give a ferocious solo or two, ticket holders whooped in appreciation. Altman’s slaying of all-time favorites made him the rock star of the evening.

Guy Lemonnier performs the first solo of the night with “Moon River,” made famous in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Lemonnier’s singing voice is reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s, and his romantic crooning caused more than a few sighs throughout the house. Lemonnier also rounds out the night paired with Moeisha McGill and her stunningly wide vocal range. Lemonnier’s soft to her powerful in the final number, “Time of My Life” (“Dirty Dancing”), brings to life the heart-swelling harmony of one of the most memorable duets in movie history. And when joined by the full company and chorus, the evening is brought to an emotional crescendo. No baby was left in any corner.

“Cinematastic: The Music of the Movies” showcases the Flat Rock Playhouse’ most important attribute: the ability to pull in top talent and somehow feature everyone in their best lights, at the right times. Matthew Glover has achieved this with his unabashedly successful show. He deserves the standing ovations he’ll surely keep receiving, and he’s earned accolades for reminding everyone why our little theater on the rock is renowned. But, more importantly, Glover and his cast mates should be proud of the way they left their audience. Floating away into a night newly magical, swathed in memories.

“Cinematastic: The Music of the Movies” runs through Sept. 28. Performances are 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets call 828-693-0731 or 866-737-8008 or visit www.flatrockplayhouse.org.