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`Love Is in the Air': What better fare on Valentine's Day?

Byline: Paul Kolas

BOYLSTON - Assuming there are any tickets left for Calliope Productions' "Love Is in the Air II" today, if you're still undecided as to what to do for Valentine's Day, John Leslie's nimbly arranged musical revue is certainly worth your consideration.

Think of it as a box of musical chocolates catering to just about everyone's taste, including vintage tunes from George Gershwin and Cole Porter, to more recent hits from "Wicked" and "Spamalot." Even the iconic theme from "Star Trek" was tossed in on Friday night. What that has to do with Cupid is anyone's guess, but it's in line with Leslie's mix of nostalgia and cornball humor.

A lot of that humor is provided early on by Jane Grady's insistently funny take on "Whatever Happened to My Part" from "Spamalot." There's an informal, easygoing feel to the show that is sustained through 44 songs and an audience participation inclusion of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "My Funny Valentine" and "All You Need Is Love." Sal Luco delivers fervent vocals on "Like a God," from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Flower Drum Song," and he's followed by Kathy Gantman-Lillis' touching take on Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me."

The best duet in Act I is provided by Gantman-Lillis and Ray Gaspari, "Love Song" from "Pippin," closely followed by the paring of Tracy DeBlois and Chris Harris for "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year" from the movie "Christmas Holiday."

In the solo department, Alex Gaspari does a nicely understated job of interpreting Morris Alpert's 1970's hit, "Feelings." DeBlois vamps her way expertly through the finger-snapping "Gimme, Gimme" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie," while Ellen Lawlor emotes "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked" with ample defiance.

Dave Ludt brings measured focus to Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You." But the most haunting moments of Act I belong to the piercing purity of James Haupt's voice in "If I Loved You" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." What a marked contrast to Chris Harris' amusing drunken-skipper routine on the "Love Boat" theme, an ensemble "hippie" excursion into "Hair's" signature "Aquarius," Jimmy Webb's "Up, Up and Away," and Luco's silky smooth delivery of "Fly Me to the Moon," all of which are part of the medley that concludes Act I.

The songs keep coming in Act 2. Standouts include Grady's "A Foggy Day" from the movie "Damsel in Distress," Ray Gaspari's antics in "A Fella With an Umbrella" from "Easter Parade," Alex Gaspari's suave "Besame Mucho," Haupt's affectionate "That's Amore," Gantman-Lillis's wistful "The Boy Next Door" from "Meet Me in St. Louis," Ludt's longing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," and Harris' hushed "London by Night."

Ray Gaspari spearheads an excellent ensemble rendition of "Unchained Melody," as do Luco's powerful vocals on Hamlisch and Bergman's inspiring "One Song."

Leslie draws considerable harmony from his group of singers, playfully on Jacques Brel's "Brussels," and stirringly on "Love Makes the World Go `Round." Once again he's put together a pleasantly tuneful collage befitting

that four-letter word of which we can all use a little more.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR II

* * *

A musical revue conceived and arranged by John Leslie. At Calliope Theatre, 150 Main St., Boylston. Final performance at 2 p.m. today. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 seniors & students. For reservations, call (508) 869-6887, or visit www.calliopeproductions.org online.

With Jane Grady, Kathy Gantman-Lillis, Sal Luco, Tracy DeBlois, Ray Gaspari, Chris Harris, Alex Gaspari, James Haupt, Dave Ludt and Ellen Lawlor.

Key to the Stars

* * * * ... Hot Stuff

* * * ... Good Job

* * ... Not Bad

* ... Never Mind
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 14, 2010
Words:590
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