The show, which received its world premiere in 2005, is another conceptual project designed by Todd Olson and David Grapes II along the lines of their similar homage titled My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, which enjoyed a 2006 run at MGR. Underneath a swanky art deco proscenium arch, designed by Annastacia Storie, a snappy four-piece band and three guys in song hold court. It quickly becomes apparent that the gents aren’t going to slavishly replicate Bennett’s velvety phrasing as they all take turns warbling entries from the Great American Songbook. Their different vocal inflections attest to the universality of the timeless tracks themselves, written by the likes of Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and the Gershwins. Anyone can sing these songs, even wanna-be Tonys in the shower.
Pitter patter: Pat McRoberts, Rob Sutton and Marty Thomas in Merry-Go-Round’s I Left My Heart.
Then again, let’s leave that task to the vocal champs assembled in Auburn. Pat McRoberts, Rob Sutton and Marty Thomas, all three boasting extensive Broadway credits, expertly handle the smatterings of biographical tidbits and the requisite between-song patter with as much enthusiasm as they bring to their song performances. The show manages to hit two nostalgia-drenched demographics, for audience members who still embrace Bennett’s extensive repertoire and others who fondly recall guy-group sing-alongs from the 1950s and 1960s.
Director-choreographer Brett Smock has also reshaped this showcase to reflect the songs rather than the singer. “The Best Is Yet to Come” is best remembered for Bennett’s seductive vamping of the verses, yet Marty Thomas’ ballsy interpretation rejiggers the number into a sonic slice of supperclub sass. More than 30 songs get equitably distributed for impressive solos (Rob Sutton performs the Dubin-Warren “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” immediately followed by Pat McRoberts tackling “Because of You”), while the band, led by music director Corinne Aquilina, receives some deserved audience applause, especially when John Eckert wields his mighty trumpet.
The show hits a snag with a set devoted to Hollywood movie themes (note to Grapes and Olson: Never start a second act with the forever drippy “Love Story (Where Do I Begin?)”), although the authors must hold pop stylist Bennett in such esteem that they never bring up his disastrous acting role in the 1966 camp classic The Oscar. Yet the hits keep coming in Act II, topped by the singing triumvirate’s passionate delivery of the enduring “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” I Left My Heart may seem slender even by the relaxed standards of most musical revues, yet Merry-Go-Round’s seasonal swan song is a polished affair that moves like a bullet and brims with good cheer.
This production runs through Oct. 25. See Times Table for information.