Dallas — Don your silk stockings, your pillbox hat, your white tie and tails. It’s the month of Cupid, and Echo Theatre returns to days gone by with its annual musical revue, The Echo Room Presents: Her Song, featuring hits from the Great American Songbook, but with a beautiful twist—all the songs were written, at least in part, by women. Directed by Pam Myers-Morgan, this popular event, now in its third year, debuts a new book written by Scott A. Eckert and features familiar faces along with a few new ones that shine.
The Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake is now the Echo Room, a 1930s supper club helmed by proprietresses Babe Rollins (a sassy Kateri Cale) and Edith Lasylph (the sharp-dressed Terri Ferguson). The libations are flowing and the dance floor is jumping thanks to local jazz master Matt Tolentino and his quartet, offering the perfect period-appropriate accompaniment and adding to the genuine ambience of the evening.
Kristen Bond’s Adelaide Bell is a sizzling jazz baby, with a voice ten times as big as she is. Though at times her effusiveness takes her vocals a bit off the rails during more complicated runs, she’s a lot of fun to watch and makes the perfect foil for the enjoyably smarmy Montague Rose Rollins, played like a pro by Jonathan Garcia.
Garcia is the consummate song-and-dance man, moving with easy grace and making songs like “The Way You Look Tonight” feel ripped straight from the Old Hollywood celluloid. Lorena Davey as Maria del Castillo can’t even help but succumb to his charms even as she glories in breaking down his womanizing ways with her acerbic wit and soaring, melodic soprano.
No one on the stage may be having more fun than Malcolm Beaty as Digby Horn, whose comedic performances of songs like “Hello, Ma Baby” and “I Won’t Dance” are a particular highlight of the show. His voice and demeanor are both flexibly and showy. Ashlie Kirkpatrick, in her Echo debut as Blanche Danvers, is equally enjoyable, the very vision of a spunky ingénue with the bright Broadway voice to match. She’s a great addition to a fairly established cast.
Annie Benjamin is charmingly flustered as new girl Lulu Glaser, the Echo Room’s very own singing cowgirl. She starts out meek and nervous, but by the time she’s belting out ‘Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” with the best of them, this cowgirl has found her place on the stage. It doesn’t hurt that Benjamin is a dab hand on the guitar, as well.
The costuming by Melissa Perkins is a well-done mix of actual vintage and modern retro, counting on smart touches like hats, hairpieces, and jewelry to give outfits that Art Deco air. The men (and Edith) rock immaculate tuxes with very little change, other than a jacket here and a shirt there, while the ladies change gowns for almost every scene—quite an undertaking, but Perkins and her assistant costume designer Dara Affholter pull it off with panache.
Choreography from Stephanie Butler is a mixed bag, but mostly comes off well, especially in the smaller numbers with just a couple or a trio. It is mostly period accurate with a few genuine dances that a local lindy hopper might be able to spot, like the Shim Sham, a popular tap-turned-line dance from the ’30s and ’40s.
The Echo Room’s performers are a wholly charming bunch, and from start to finish the fun they’re having together is infectious. Is every song note perfect, every dancer’s turn on a dime? Maybe not, but you're too busy tapping your toes to care. If you feel like you were born in the wrong decade and want to spend an evening of jazz and jokes, Her Song is the show for you.