First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb directed by Eric Shaeffer delivers a revue of songs from musicals and films such as Chicago, New York, New York, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Cabaret among others, all penned by the prolific Kander & Ebb. The vocal stylings of six Broadway performers, including Heidi Blickenstaff, James Clow, Alan H. Green, Leslie Kritzer, Patina Miller, and Matthew Scott, are supported by the 23-person Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Each song is complete with choreography reflecting elements of the original performances, lending further visual stimulation to the already aurally stimulating performance. The stage is surrounded with three bright LED frames, deescalating in size, and the orchestra is arranged on a stepped bandstand further illuminated by LED strips which change colors throughout the show.
Die-hard fans of Kander & Ebb will appreciate the huge selection of songs, 29 in total, the first act alone running over an hour! Although the lighting is innovative, it is a bit bright in places, and the spotlighting seemed to be off in several instances. The show would have been better in a shorter format, and perhaps a more intimate setting – First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb first premiered at the Signature Theater in Arlington, a decidedly smaller venue than the Eisenhower Theater.
In most musical numbers, the vocalists soared above the instrumentals, although the volume of the orchestra overwhelmed the singers in a few places, perhaps another argument towards editing the program down in order for the singers to save their energy for the very best and most memorable songs. Overall, First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb entertains and inspires with accomplished musicianship and beautiful voices, yet the production as a whole could stand some tightening. First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb is showing at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater until July 1, with tickets starting at $65, although discounts are available for groups, and if bought in conjunction with the Opera House musical, Memphis.