Florida Studio Theatre’s tribute to George and Ira Gershwin’s music has all the sophistication and swing of the Jazz Age. Directed by Richard Hopkins, with music direction by Ryan Touhey, the production reflects the Gershwin diversity, the sly humor, universal emotion and musical perspicuity that made them — and still makes them — so popular. Loaded with well-staged examples presented by a talented ensemble of four, it’s a “S’wonderful” evening from its opening, “I Got/Fascinating Rhythm” medley and on down the “Bumpy Road to Love.”
“Gershwin’s gift was phenomenal,” noted Michael Kennedy, as quoted in “The Oxford Dictionary of Music.” “His songs contain the essence of New York in the 1920s and have deservedly become classics of their kind, part of the 20th-century, folk-song tradition in the sense that they are popular music that has been spread by oral tradition (for many must have sung a Gershwin song without having any idea who wrote it).”
Gershwin remarked, “Jazz I regard as an American folk music, not the only one, but a very powerful one, which is in the blood and feeling of the American people more than any other style of folk music.”
Stephen Hope croons swell tunes and brings an upscale-cocktail-hour feel, a bit of Durante and a linguistically demanding musical recitation of major Russian composers. Liz Power is lovely and stylin’ with a lively upbeat version of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” with a hint of Minnie the Moocher. Robert H. Fowler is funny in a twitchy rumba and equally rousing in “Stairway to Paradise.” Jannie Jones lends her powerful range and depth to everyone’s favorite, “Summertime,” as well as a fascinating rhythm all her own.
Snappy patter is provided by co-writers Rebecca Hopkins, Richard Hopkins and Jim Prosser, who doubles on piano. Susan Angermann conjures up some stunning eveningwear. Stage manager Kelsey Petersen keeps it all together. Kate Dewall lights it up, and David Corsello makes sure we can hear it.