Judy Rossignuolo Rice & Bernie Rice: Once Upon a Time

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Judy Rossignuolo Rice & Bernie Rice

Once Upon a Time

Skokie Theatre, Skokie, IL, June 3, 2017

Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes

Judy Rossignuolo

Husband and wife cabaret team Judy Rossignuolo Rice and Bernie Rice (the newly elected president of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals) took their sold-out audience at the Skokie Theatre on a sweet and sentimental musical journey. Opening with “Try to Remember” (The Fantasticks) and “Heart of My Heart” set the tone as a reflection of simpler times. The Rices, both of whom have strong roots in musical theater, presented an entertaining selection of duets that have become iconic through television, theater, and film. We enjoyed “Bella Notte,” ”Make Believe,” “Small World,” and more. A particular highlight was “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof. The song had a lovely build, transitioning from the weary irritability that can characterize long-married people. It was also effective because the Rices were physically close as they sat side by side on a bench. (They seldom touched during their show, which, in a sense, created a physical distance that was at times at odds with their otherwise well-connected duets.) Ms. Rice offered song selections from Peter Pan doing the lyricists proud in sassy offerings like ”I Won’t Grow Up” (Leigh) and “I’ve Gotta Crow” (Leigh),  with an effective transition to the tender “Never Never Land” (Comden & Green). Mr. Rice delivered a passionate rendition of “The Impossible Dream,” along with some impressive upper-register notes. A challenge to any nostalgia-centered show is that it can easily become too sweet. The Rices made a smart decision in adding the Villain Medley, which included “Captain Hook’s Waltz,” “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” and “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” to the show. Musical director Beckie Menzie provided just the right support. Kudos to director Dale Calandra on evoking from Ms. Rice one of her most grounded performances, and from Mr. Rice one of his most animated. Closing with “Thanks for the Memory” was both a fine homage to a nostalgic standard and a grateful expression of how the Rices convey their joy in performing.

Carla Gordon

Carla Gordon is a singer/songwriter, director, and producer. The Chicago Tribune cited her among “Chicago’s most accomplished cabaret performers….a major player in Chicago cabaret.” Reviewer Pam Peterson called her “Honey-voiced wisecracker!” Ageless Magazine called her performance as Sophie tucker, “A gem!” Gordon writes custom material for singers nationwide. Her flagship show, "Blacklisted," featuring songs made famous by artists blacklisted under McCarthyism, has toured to critical acclaim. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and on the Advisory Board of the Skokie Theater. Her songs air on WFMT’s Midnight Special and are being performed performed by cabaret artists nationwide. carlacabaret@aol.com