The Rose is alive with the sound of music

Dayton Performing Arts Alliance christens new venue

By Eric Street

Photo: Dayton Ballet dancers Case Bodamer and Annalise Woller will perform as part of “An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein” at the Rose Music Center at the Heights on May 16

Come prepared for an “Enchanted Evening” when the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance and the brand-new Rose Music Center at the Heights team up for the first time to present “An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” May 16.

Yes, the Dayton Opera, Dayton Ballet and Dayton Philharmonic will combine under the baton of Neal Gittleman in a grand DPAA Signature Event to help inaugurate the Rose Music Center at The Heights.

While trying out the new covered amphitheater you can enjoy many of the hugely popular scenes and selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals, including The King and I, South Pacific, Carousel, State Fair, Cinderella, Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music.

Conductor Neal Gittleman has no doubts.

“I grew up hearing R&H musicals,” he says. “Oklahoma made this Jewish kid from Brooklyn want to move west to the Territories. And my first crush was Julie Andrews in the ‘Sound of Music’ movie! So this DPAA show is a great chance to get all nostalgic for the golden era of Broadway – not just for me, but for everyone!”

“We are really excited to have them as one of the very first events of our inaugural season,” says Rosemarie Moehring, director of marketing for Music and Event Management, Inc. “Our venue is a 4,100 seat capacity open-air mini-amphitheater. There’s really not a bad seat in the place. We’re on a unique elevation, and there are no pillars to obstruct the view. It’s really the best of both worlds – you can enjoy the experience of being outside while at the same time remaining fully covered by the roof.”

“We’ve made a great effort to keep ticket prices as low as possible,” explains Moehring, “and it’s a ‘no-extra-fee’ box office, which means if you pay with cash there are no service fees, and credit card is only $1 more. The arena is so well done. I think people will have a great experience. It’s also really accessible, right off I-70 at the Crossroads of America!”

Rob Schommer, Huber Heights City Manager, is similarly enthusiastic. “The Rose Music Center will establish Huber Heights and the I-70 corridor as a regional destination,” Schommer says. “We are both proud and excited to bring this amazing entertainment venue to our community.”

The elevated tiered design was created to give every concertgoer a personal experience with exceptional sightlines and acoustics. Two large LED video screens located on both sides of the stage complete the overall audience experience and make every seat in the house a great one. Well-lit parking immediately adjacent to the building will make entering and leaving any concert easy. With Ohio summers in mind, giant ceiling fans inside the pavilion will provide a comfortable setting even on the hottest summer evenings.

“An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein” is studded with plenty of recognizable hits. And for those who somehow missed all the excitement that Rodgers and Hammerstein generated in the mid-20th century, the program should serve as a perfect introduction to the creative magic of this highly successful team.

The evening opens in appropriately grand style, with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus and Dayton Opera Chorus in a rousing “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from State Fair. The Technicolor musical film version of Phil Stong’s novel, “State Fair,” appeared in 1945 and is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s only score originally written for film. It won the pair their only Oscar. State Fair didn’t open on Broadway until 1996. Produced by David Merrick, it received five Tony Award nominations.

Featured vocalists, including soprano Laura Portune, mezzo-soprano Christina Baldwin, and baritone Gabriel Priesser, then join the DPO for excerpts from the smash hit Oklahoma! They’ll sing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “People Will Say We’re In Love” and “Oklahoma!” before the dancers of the Dayton Ballet join in for “Many a New Day.”

Oklahoma! was the project that brought Rodgers and Hammerstein together. Each was attracted to creating a musical based on Lynn Riggs’ stage play, “Green Grow the Lilacs.” When Jerome Kern turned down Hammerstein and Hart refused Rodgers, Rodgers and Hammerstein began their first collaboration. The result, Oklahoma!, marked a revolution in musical drama when it hit Broadway in 1943.

Though Oklahoma! is not the first musical to tell a story of emotional depth and psychological complexity, it introduced a number of storytelling elements and techniques new to musicals. These included using song and dance to convey plot and character and the firm integration of every song into the plotline. Before this, songs and dances typically acted as diversions from the story, decorations that did little to advance the plot.

Oklahoma! was originally called Away We Go! and opened in New Haven in March 1943. Only a few changes were made before it opened on Broadway, but three would prove significant: adding a show-stopping number, “Oklahoma!,” replacing one number with a reprise of “People Will Say We’re in Love” and re-titling the musical after the new song.

Despite the lack of major stars in the cast, the production ran for a then-unprecedented 2,212 performances. Following its huge Broadway success, in 1955 it was made into an Academy Award-winning musical film, the first feature shot with a new widescreen process. Starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, its soundtrack reached No. 1 on the 1956 album charts.

The Dayton Ballet appears next on the program, uniting with the DPO and vocalists for “The Stepsisters’ Lament” from the classic tale Cinderella, which Rodgers and Hammerstein originally set for television. An estimated 107 million viewers, including this writer’s family, tuned in to watch Julie Andrews in the title role in 1957. The phenomenal viewing audience represented more than half the country’s population at that time! The recent Broadway staging just closed this January after 770 performances and 41 previews. Cinderella is now crossing the U.S. in its national tour.

Next comes a well-known trio of tunes from Carousel, including “Carousel Waltz,” “If I Loved You” and “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.”

Rouben Mamoulian directed the original production of Carousel, which opened on Broadway in 1945 and ran for 890 performances. Carousel was a groundbreaking production for its time. Adapted from Ferenc Molnár’s play, “Liliom,” it is one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot starring an antihero. It also boasts an important ballet that was crucial to the plot, as well as several extended musical scenes containing both sung and spoken material as well as dance. The 1956 film version of Carousel again starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, the same leads as the film version of Oklahoma!, Carousel is unique among Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals for not having an overture. Both the stage and film versions begin with the familiar “Carousel Waltz,” which opens this group of musical numbers.

After intermission, the DPO sets the stage for more hits, beginning with the stirring “Guadalcanal March” from Victory at Sea. Opera vocalists rejoin the DPO for a tuneful trip to South Pacific, including three unforgettable numbers: “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame” with the Dayton Ballet, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”

South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949 and ran continuously for over five years. The story is based on two short stories by James A. Michener from his book, “Tales of the South Pacific,” which won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Rodgers and Hammerstein, along with co-writer Joshua Logan, garnered the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for their adaptation.

Mary Martin starred in the original Broadway production as the heroine Nellie Forbush, singing opposite opera star Ezio Pinza as Emile de Becque, the French plantation owner. The stars of the 1958 film version had their singing dubbed by others.

The South Pacific numbers are followed by a tribute to The King and I, including “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “I Have Dreamed” and a lively “Shall We Dance” with the Dayton Ballet.

The King and I is based on Margaret Landon’s novel, “Anna and the King of Siam.” It’s the charming story of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I opened on Broadway in 1951, starring Gertrude Lawrence as Anna and a then nearly-unknown Yul Brynner as the king.

It was adapted for film in 1956 with Brynner re-creating his role opposite Deborah Kerr, whose singing was largely dubbed by Marni Nixon. Brynner won an Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal, and Kerr was nominated as Best Actress. Brynner reprised the role twice on Broadway, in 1977 and 1985.

The performance draws to a dazzling conclusion with a familiar hike through the snow-capped Alps of Austria. Will anyone manage not to think of Julie Andrews as they hear the title song from The Sound of Music? This is followed by the inspirational “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

The program closes with a “Do-Re-Mi” sing-along.

Every audience member is invited to join in to bring this new music center alive with the sound of music ringing from every corner. This might be a good time to prepare by practicing your Do-Re-Mi in the shower!

What else does Rose Music Center at the Heights offer this summer?

“Our line-up is really diverse,” says Moehring. “We already have 19 shows booked, and we expect to ultimately have 25. We’re still adding.”

Following the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance show on Saturday, May 16 is Shawn Mendes on Sunday, May 31.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers with Brian Setzer take the stage Thursday, June 2, followed by Dwight Yoakam and Jason Isbell with Amanda Shires Sunday, June 5. Saturday, June 18 will showcase Channel 999 Summerjam featuring Flo Rida and Echosmith, with special guests Olly Murs and Cash Cash.

Sammy Hagar and The Circle appear Monday, June 20, featuring Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham and Vic Johnson. They are followed by David Gray and Amos Lee Thursday, June 23. The next day Jonny Long and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band perform.

Tedeschi Trucks Band plays Saturday, June 27, with very special guests Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, plus Doyle Bramhall II. Whitesnake with The Answer takes the stage Tuesday, July 7. Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis appears Sunday, July 12.

Boz Scaggs with Tower of Power perform July 21, followed by Primus with Dinosaur Junior August 4. The Beach Boys and The Temptations team up Thursday, August 6. Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick take the stage Sunday, August 9. Canned Heat with Charlie Musselwhite and Pat Travers Band will perform Friday, August 21.

Closing the season are the Brit Floyd Space & Time World Tour on Thursday, August 27, and Lynyrd Skynyrd the following day, August 28. Ticket prices include parking, and all events will go on, rain or shine.

The Dayton performing Arts Alliance presents An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Saturday, May 16 at 8 p.m. at the Rose Music Center at the Heights, 6800 Executive Boulevard in Huber Heights. For tickets and more information, please call 937.228.3630 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Eric Street at

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Eric Street is Professor of Music at UD with a doctorate from Indiana University. His Carnegie Hall debut led to performances in 36 countries on six continents. An opera lover, he’s taught Opera History and accompanied over two-dozen singers from the Metropolitan and NYC Opera. Reach him at

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