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  • Writer's pictureKrissy Dorn

"Authentic Acting and Vocal Harmony"

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Rolf-Rüdiger Hamacher on Starting Here Starting Now in "musicals"

Who doesn't know the saying: "Suppose they gave a war and no one came!" In the musical theater Diaspora of Cologne ("apart from the Musical Dome, nothing much is going on") in April, one could either laugh about the Cologne version of the saying or simply shake their head in wonder: "Suppose Broadway came and no one knew!" Two tiny Cologne venues had bought the German premiere of the off-Broadway musical revue 'Starting Here, Starting Now' by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, produced and performed by the Dutch-German-American Jewel Box Musical Theater Company – and apparently informed no one but their neighbors. The newspapers remained silent and the Cologne audience was left out. It was only when the play moved to the adjacent city of Bonn for three performances that the media got wind of it, thanks to Frank Oppermann, the go-getting artistic director of the Kleines Theater Bad Godesberg. After the success on his summer open-air stage back in June, Frank now gives musical theater fans in the Cologne area another chance to enjoy the revue – once again or for the first time – on September 14 and December 14, this time indoors.

With 'Starting Here, Starting Now' one gets to know a composer/songwriter duo that still stands in the shadow of Broadway icons like Rodgers & Hammerstein or Kander & Ebb. Only their two musicals 'Baby' (1983) and 'Big' (1996), based on the Tom Hanks movie of the same name, made them known to a wider audience.

Only their no-dialogue show 'Closer Than Ever' (1989) ever reached German-speaking audiences at all. ‚Starting Here, Starting Now‘ was performed 120 times in 1977, and the original cast album was nominated for a Grammy Award – a remarkable success for a revue presented by a trio of musical theater performers and four musicians.

The show doesn't just string together random songs by Maltby & Shire, but tells a little relationship drama from different perspectives with each song.The quality of the pieces in terms of content and music is not only evident from the fact that Barbra Streisand included some of them (including "Autumn" and the title song) in her repertoire early on and promoted them in her popular TV specials. Graduates and teachers at musical academies also like to use the songs, which serve different musical facets and levels of difficulty, for recitals and practice purposes.

Stage director Heike Werntgen kept her production close to the original, even in the acting scenes. The enthusiasm of her performers transmits to the audience through their authentic acting and vocal harmony from the very first note. Dutch performer Merel Zeeman is a welcome guest at the big musical productions and convinces with her mastered belt and comedic talent in the tongue-twisting "Crossword Puzzle". Krissy Dorn, Cologne resident with several years of musical theater experience in California, touches with her clear soprano ("Autumn") and John Rinaldi, American living in the Amsterdam area, hits the emotional core of Maltby's musical declaration of love for his wife ("Barbara") with his warm tenor. Frans Heemskerk on the keys not only puts a congenial stamp on the evening, but also doesn’t mind to be drawn into the scenes – just like the audience who would love to sing along with Rinaldi's "I Don't Remember Christmas" and can‘t keep their feet still during the ensemble number "One Step".

'Starting Here, Starting Now' is a discovery for any musical (theater) fan and makes you want to see more shows by Maltby & Shire.

from: musicals – das Musicalmagazin, issue no. 220, Aug/Sep 2023, p. 38.

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