"If Mama Rose (Gypsy) would have had Patsy Cline (country legend) for a daughter, Gypsy Rose Lee (stripper) may have kept her clothes on and they might have traveled by train. Such was the rumination inspired by the world premiere of Just The Two Of Us, a new musical revue written by two of Eugene's most popular singers, Shaunie Schmoll (a little bit country) and Peg Major (a little bit on a Broadway roll.) The show, directed by Reva Kaufman, opened Friday at Actors Cabaret.
Over the last two seasons, Eugene audiences demanded extended runs of Always Patsy Cline and Honky Tonk Angels, both starring Peg and Shaunie and also directed by Kaufman. This popularity led to the writing of Two Of Us, which reflects their combined experiences of putting on those shows and shares some of their favorite songs in revue. The result is a pleasant, intimate evening of song, fun and a tear or two.
The show begins with Shaunie and Peg having opening night jitters about their new revue to the music of "As if We Never Said Goodbye" from Andrew Lloyd Weber's Sunset Boulevard. They step through the curtains singing, "This is the Moment" from Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll and Hyde and then Peg belts out "Broadway Baby" from Stephen Sondheim's Follies, explosively exposing her absolute love for musical theater.
Just as I was getting ready for a night of great show tunes, Shaunie stepped back into her Patsy Cline character and soothed "Walking After Midnight," "Faded Love," and "Crazy." Two songs were also revived from Honky Tonk Angels.
It became up close and personal when both singers shared their favorite love songs and actually auditioned (producers take note) for roles that they would like to play. Peg nailed Mama Rose with a booming rendition of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and Shaunie showed a demure Eva Peron with "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina."
They didn't cheat on showstoppers. "This is the Moment," "Broadway Babies," "Sara Lee," Working's "Just a Housewife," Dick Tracy's "I'm Living Alone and Like It," "You Gotta Ring Them Bills" from Liza with a Z, Mame's "Bosom Buddies," and Baby's "I Want It All" are included. My nomination for the all-time comic showstopper is "The Grass is Greener" from Kander and Ebb's Woman of the Year. The press release promised Cabaret's "Don't Tell Mama." It was omitted, so I guess Mama still doesn't know.
Percussionist Gary Fetter, with his banjo eyes, swept the audience off its feet when he accompanied Shaunie to the scat rendition of "My Baby's Back on Base." Peg's daughter and performing stage manager, Rebekah Hope, provided a perfect moment of tenderness with "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors. This gal is going to provide a lot of musical enjoyment over the years. More! More!
Musical director Jim Greenwood played an emotional, but shortened, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin. This revue is not too long and would easily benefit from a full 24-minute version to which audiences are rarely treated. Step up to the hard parts, Jim. More! More!
Regulars of musical theater and Country/Western fans will love this show, but anyone who likes music will be humming out the door. Any imperfections are easily overlooked because of the intimacy of the revue. A title change might more reflect the contributions of others in the show and the program should include a list of the songs and their source.
ACE provides the perfect musical dinner theater environment for this revue, and many physical improvements have been made over the last year, including a new neon sculpture. While individual seats are available, a dinner and a musical provides a complete evening of entertainment for a couple or family.
Performances continue at Actors
Cabaret, 996 Willamette St., Eugene on Friday and Saturday
evenings at 8 pm, Sept. 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30 and Oct. 6,
7, 13, 14. There will be a Sunday brunch matinee performance
at 2 pm on Sept. 24. 683-4368.