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Photograph by David Allen

Fashion's Follies: Yes, we once dressed like that, OK? Molly Bell and Nikkema Taylor re-create the pop era of Carole King in 'Tapestry.'

King's Reign

American Musical Theatre of San Jose pays tribute to Carole King's songbook in 'Tapestry'

By Rob Pratt

THE MUSICAL REVUE, once a staple of pre-World War II Broadway, has made a comeback, after a fashion, on the Great White Way with several new shows based on the music of platinum-selling pop acts. The music of Abba touched off a Broadway sensation in 2001 with Mamma Mia!, and Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp earned Tonys in 2003 for their adaptation of Joel's oeuvre in Movin' Out. American Musical Theatre of San Jose doesn't steer far out of the current in presenting a homegrown production of Tapestry, A Musical Revue Based on the Music of Carole King, an energetically staged showcase of one of America's great pop songwriters.

Unlike the neorevues storming Broadway, which shoehorn a plot into a collection of songs, Tapestry is virtually all music, relying simply on King's songs, a half-dozen singers and an onstage rock band to carry the show. The great variety and familiarity of King's music, which routinely topped the pop charts during the 1960s and 1970s, and AMTSJ artistic director Tim Bair's crafty direction and choreography make the show an engaging night of theater.

For the three male and three female singers, Bair has found a knockout lineup of locals, every one worth a mention: Noel Anthony, Molly Bell, James Monroe Iglehart, Annmarie Martin, Travis Poelle and Nikkema Taylor. Each singer gets a solo turn, and without exception he or she works the spotlight with skill and poise. Their best performances, however, show up in the dense harmonies of ensemble numbers, and when they're playing off each other in duets and in a medley of girl- and boy-group hits from the 1960s. Led by musical director Dolores Duran Cefalu, who doubles as conductor and keyboardist, the sure-footed band steps through everything from doo-wop to driving blues-rock with power and precision.

Unfortunately, the excellent cast and band are often dwarfed or obscured by over-the-top stage designs. With a number of panels of netting and French-curved strips of white fabric, the design creates shifting spaces onstage, at times bringing a feeling of visual depth to a show that presents little opportunity for spectacle. At other times, the panels look as if a group of high schoolers redecorated a friend's house with a Safeway Club special on toilet paper. Pamila Z. Gray's lighting design likewise alternates between artful subtlety and downright garishness. Sound designer Hage Van Dijk installed a high-end speaker system to give the show some audio power, but he only manages to achieve a brittle-sounding mix devoid of warmth.

With Tapestry, AMTSJ is not finished with revues. For the closing show this season, the company presents Movin' Out, which uses the music of Billy Joel to tell the story of a group of baby boomers torn apart by the Vietnam War. The national touring company of the Tony-winning show comes to the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts June 14-26.

Tapestry, A Musical Revue Based on the Music of Carole King, presented by American Musical Theatre of San Jose, plays Thursday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm and Sunday at 1 and 6:30pm through April 24 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $45-$75. (888.455.7469)

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From the April 20-26, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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