Arkansas Repertory Theatre
There’s a reason why elevator music is played quietly — so a group of strangers suddenly cramped into an intimate space, each anxiously waiting for their floor, can all ignore each other by tapping their feet along to a synthesized version of the Beatles’ “Imagine.” Then, as soon as the doors open, they get the hell away.
There’s a reason why that kind of music should not be played live, but the Rep has not, apparently, caught on.
The ingredients for success were right: Lawrence Hamilton, Philander Smith College’s choir director who’s got Broadway credentials; the pop/country songs of fellow Arkansan Randy Goodrum; Pianist Frank Owens, who’s accompanied Johnny Mathis and Lena Horne, with a five-piece band and flashy back-up singers.
Hamilton created “Souvenirs” as a vehicle for his songs and some of Goodrum’s famous compositions (including Steve Perry’s “Foolish Heart” and Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me”). The idea, Hamilton said, was to celebrate his friendship with Goodrum and “special moments in my life.”
But Big Apple meets jazz meets country added up, curiously, to a thoroughly bland performance, replete with sappy love songs and moral tales disguised as melody. It amounted to nothing more than a lounge act — put a dollar in the tip jar, please!
In fact, “Souvenirs,” which runs through Sunday, June 19, is in part a benefit, for Circle of Life Hospice Care. Hamilton has been a part of many charity events over the years. Its good intentions didn’t rescue it, however.
Did they play a wrong note? Were they off-key? Not necessarily, but for a few minor flaws in the performance. Patrick Lindsey did a nice job with percussion, Stephanie James sang a good duet with Hamilton, whose vocals left something to be wished for in the higher registers. Had the band been able to show more prowess, it might have made a difference.
— By Dustin Allen