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Their Funny Valentine

Rodgers and Hart retrospective evokes the sentimental season of love

By Ian Johnson

The Bus Barn Stage Company's production of Rodgers and Hart: A Celebration evokes the sentimental season of love through the songs of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 18-year collaboration, from 1925 to 1943. Director Barbara Valente and musical director Catherine Snider weave the autobiographies of the famous composer and lyricist through musical numbers exploring love found, lost, unrequited and celebrated.

The seven-member cast brings crisp presentations to unfamiliar material and a fresh face to old standards. Though the actors maintain a vibrant performance level for the entire two hours, some of Hart's lyrics do become a bit sappy, making particularly potent numbers like "Johnny One Note," "My Romance" and "The Lady Is a Tramp" shine like the hot little gems they are.

Kathy Burch tickles the audience with "To Keep My Love Alive," a morbid tale of a human black-widow spider's undying love for her past lovers. Chris Moylan does a particularly touching "Miss Jones," a tale of growing old with a loved one. Tim Roberts sings a somber rendition of "Nearer," revealing a chilling falsetto. Barbara Lymberis, Barbara Reynolds and Catherine Sheldon deliver the dapper "Sing for Your Supper," re-emphasizing the cast's commitment, talent and joy they derive from working in unison.

The musical accompaniment is provided by a small combo: Catherine Snider, piano; Danny Min and Chris Coulter, bass; Kelly Fasman, drums. Marcia Frederick's art deco-inspired set and Sharon Sanchez-Eakes' relevant costumes refine the dimension of the piece. But what celebration of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers could be complete without the timeless standard "My Funny Valentine"? Nick Lymberis' rendition evokes the appropriate sentimentality and sharpened irony of the smoky song. Although youngsters may not comprehend all the song's complexities, the entire family will enjoy this small history lesson of two essential figures in the 20th-century canon of popular music.

Rodgers and Hart plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays (except Oct. 12) at 7pm through Nov. 1, as the Bus Barn Theatre, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos. (415/941-0551).

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