There’s a lot of familiar music beautifully sung and performed by a talented group of singer/musicians in Florida Studio Theatre’s newest cabaret show, “Poems, Prayers and Promises.”
The show, developed by Richard and Rebecca Hopkins and directed by Russell Treyz, is a salute of sorts to singer-songwriter storytellers who were popular during the second half of the 20th century.
So you can expect to hear songs by Harry Chapin, Paul Simon, Carole King, John Denver, Joni Mitchell and others, along with some tunes that I’m not sure truly fit in with the concept the creators have devised.
Newcomers Joe Casey, Daniel Emond and Ben Mackel join returning performers Dominick Cicco and Sarah Hund in displaying varied talents. They blend nicely in the catchy and smooth arrangements by musical director Ben Krauss, and sound good on solos and duets. More impressively, most of them play multiple instruments, easily switching from piano or guitar to mandolin, bongos, banjo and others.
There’s no faulting the quintet’s musical and vocal skills.
Emond, playing a young goofball, wins over the crowd (if he hadn’t already) near the finale with a powerful version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” after playing Art Garfunkel to Mackel’s Simon in several other numbers. Mackel plays a sarcastic jokester. Casey is tender singing Denver’s “Annie’s Song” and Hund takes on songs by King and Dolly Parton in a clear, vibrant voice. Cicco comes off as the grizzled veteran, putting some spirit and bite into “Love Me Like a Rock” and Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown.”
Every song, from Gershwin to Miley Cyrus, tells a story to one degree or another. This show offers a range of styles. There’s a bit more of a poetic view of the world in Simon’s songs or Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” There are clear tales to follow in Chapin’s “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” about a truck driver losing control of his load, or Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors,” about a ragtag coat made with love.
As good as it all sounds, the show’s structure doesn’t always hold together. I’m not sure how the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away” or The Eagles hit “Take it Easy” really fit in, and there are so many other songs by this group of composers (and others) that are perfectly suitable.
More problematic, the written material meant to link the songs frequently strains to make those connections. You might feel a bit of whiplash as the show switches from the tenderness of “Annie’s Song” to a playful variation of Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song” by tying things to the supposed live loves of the performers.
And why doesn’t the show include the tender title song by Denver?
Friday’s opening night audience didn’t seem bothered by any of it, clearly captivated by an eclectic group of songs well sung. Apparently, that’s enough for some listeners. Personally, I’d like a bit more.
POEMS, PRAYERS AND PROMISES
Developed by Richard Hopkins and Rebecca Hopkins. Directed by Russell Treyz. Reviewed Jan. 3, Florida Studio Theatre Goldstein Cabaret. Through April 20. Tickets are $18-$36. 366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org