PEMCo Revue returns
Jonah Poczobutt | Wednesday, April 8, 2015
The PEMCo Revue makes its return to LaFortune Ballroom on Thursday to benefit Turnaround Arts, a charity for music and performing arts education in impoverished schools. The program aims to narrow the achievement gap, increase student engagement and improve the culture and climate of these schools through musical education.
This year’s Revue setlist features 18 songs, all somewhat loosely linked by the theme “Living the Dream.”
A six-piece band tucked into the corner of the ballroom plays the accompaniment music for each show tune. Audience members seated closest to the band may find it difficult to hear vocal performances over the bass and drums. This problem seems to be a recurring issue for the PEMCo Revue.
The show begins on a high note with the entire ensemble performing “Live in Living Color” from the musical “Catch Me If You Can.” Ensemble member Chris Siemann performs leading vocals in this piece, and his loud, distinct voice definitely stands out above those of other cast members. The “Live in Living Color” performance starts the Revue off on a high note unmatched for much of the show.
The rest of act one proceeds with a few recognizable songs from musicals such as “Tarzan,” “Wicked,” and “West Side Story,” as well as a number of songs only avid theater fans will recognize.
Ben Swanson, Alex Joyce and Ryan Jones give another particularly strong performance in their rendition of “Who I’d Be” from “Shrek The Musical.” The singers’ voices blend nicely in this performance, and the dialogue before the song leaves no doubt as to what play the characters are from. This sort of dialogue only appears in the performances of a select few songs where lines from the play are particularly helpful for the performance. Those performances preceded by rehearsed lines felt more natural than those where the performers jumped straight into song.
The second act begins with a performance from arguably the two strongest singers in the ensemble, Siemann and Quint Mediate, performing “What You Own” from “Rent.” The audience will be pleased to hear clear, strong vocals and see choreography that engages the entire three-sided seating area.
Siemann and Mediate both shine in their assorted roles throughout the show as vocal performers and with the genuine nature of their gestures.
Individual performances in the second act outshine those of the first act as a whole, but it is occasionally hard to distinguish individual words because of the volume of the band and sometimes quiet or slurred singing.
All audience members will likely recognize the crowd-pleaser “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” after the successful reproduction of the musical as a movie in 2012. The ensemble delivers the strongest female performance of the night in its cover of this song, which features a particularly chilling harmonization near the end.
Another recognizable piece, “King of New York” from “Newsies,” features the best choreography of any song in the show, matching the upbeat and positive song with a dance that covers the whole stage. The performance also features excellent vocals from Siemann and Mediate once again, with strong and lively performances from their accompanying cast members.
Sophomore director Sam Squeri throws in another playful crowd pleaser at the end of the show to wrap up the performance. “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” seems an appropriate way to end or begin just about any performance, and the PEMCo Revue is no exception. The whole ensemble does well to create a harmonization strikingly similar to what audience members will remember from the movie itself.
The total run time for the performance is about 90 minutes, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 and are available at LaFortune Box Office and at the door.