‘Trivia Tonight! A Questionable Musical Revue’ scores at Bethesda Little Theatre

Performing an artful set list with heart and humor, the cast leaves everything on the stage.

By C. A. Ling

“Stick around, ’cause you never know….” So sing the cast at the end of Bethesda Little Theater’s Trivia Tonight! A Questionable Musical Revue, in a gem from the 1992 movie musical featuring Billy Crystal in the title role (named after a favorite evening of the week). It’s a song about the twists and turns of fate, about surprises waiting just around the corner. And Bethesda Little Theater (BLT) has once again delivered a show that does just that, tucking surprises into every corner of the program and delivering delights at every turn.

Kathleen Dacruz in ‘Trivia Tonight! A Questionable Musical Revue.’ Photo by Leslie Blaha.

Director Martin Bestimt, a veteran of the BLT’s ensemble and astute architect of its witty style, has assembled another jewel box of musical numbers, some familiar, some (very undeservedly) less so. The show plays on this variation in familiarity by taking on the form of an at-home trivia party, with the 13-member cast sitting in teams around the staged living room, anchored by set design team Lynne and Grant Wagner’s clever backdrop of a cozy sitting room with bookcases, picture frames, and a staircase. Cast members take turns asking the trivia questions that tee up the next set of songs, with a “fourth wall” gag running in parallel about whether or not there’s an audience out there playing along as well. If you can resist checking your program, you are playing too, but fear not if you succumb to temptation: intermission brings an audience-only musical trivia game you can play on your phone, with a door prize for the lucky winner.

Spanning the canon from the 1930s all the way to the last season of a certain Hulu hit series featuring Steve Martin, Selena Gomez, and Martin Short, the show’s set list ranges from heartfelt jazz standards (simply and poignantly sung by long-time BLT cast member Gordon Kiefer) to hilarious takes on serial monogamy and shucking off the chains of domesticity (delivered adeptly by the versatile Laura Holmes), the sacrifices involved in keeping love fresh (comedienne Kelly Dobkins), and relieving the boredom of a desk job while staying under your boss’s radar (the, ahem, birdlike Cathy McCoskey).

Arthur Glover and Axandre Oge raise the roof mid-show with a classic by New Orleans jazz piano prodigy Jon Batiste and shine in their respective solos — a bossa nova classic for Oge, who debuted with BLT in its recent production of Trees, and a Fred Astaire movie ballad for BLT favorite Glover. Brett Jordan slays a clever wordplay number on the parallels between the human body and the body corporate, and Bestimt and Kaitlyn Gibbens, who also made her BLT debut in Trees, meld their voices movingly in a tender duet from a 1969 musical remake of a book and movie about a British boarding school teacher.

Kathleen Dacruz, in her third appearance with BLT, is a consummate man-hunter in her selection from Madonna’s 1990 film titled after a classic comic strip character, while Priscilla Howell makes a sizzling comic debut channeling Bette Midler and the charms (or lack thereof) of the seasons of the far northern climes of the most northerly U.S. state. Returning BLT crooner Eric Yeh knocks it out of the park on a pair of classics, one a jazz number associated closely with Ol’ Blue Eyes, the other an American folk classic for which Yeh accompanies himself simply and beautifully on guitar.

In ‘Trivia Tonight! A Questionable Musical Revue’ TOP LEFT: Kelly Dobbins, photo by Leslie Blaha; TOP RIGHT: Cathy McCoskey, photo by John McCoskey; ABOVE: The cast, photo by John McCoskey.

This is not a complete catalog of all the fun surprises with which the cast regaled their opening night audience, although I would be remiss in not mentioning how my companions and I laughed out loud at the sheer fun-loving goofiness of the first half’s closing “production number,” complete with pop-up top hats and 1976-era, er, rapping.

What songs are these, you ask? Well, that would be spoiling the trivia fun. And which of these talented cast members get the trivia prize, you further inquire? You’ll just have to get yourself a ticket to find out. (The Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center has easy parking and the friendliest house management staff I have ever had the pleasure of chatting with.)

The talented music team of music director Leslie Blaha, experienced community theater pianist and educator Arielle Bayer, and bassist Ruben Vellekoop provide expert accompaniment to each number in this challenging range of selections, perfectly comping the jazz standards, amping it up for the showstoppers, and bringing it home for the curtain calls.

Come for the door prize, but stick around for the artful compilation of this set list and the big heart and humor of this cast, who leave everything on the stage. Get your tickets now and don’t miss this show!

Running Time: Two hours 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Trivia Tonight!: A Questionable Musical Revue plays through June 16, 2024, presented by Bethesda Little Theatre at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, 7995 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD. Showtimes are 8 PM Friday and Saturday (June 14-15) and 2:30 PM Sunday (June 16). Tickets are $28 adults, $22 students/seniors/military, $18 children 12 and under. For tickets and more information call 202-796-3431, email [email protected], or go to their website.

Bethesda Little Theatre to answer ‘Trivia Tonight!’ with song and dance (feature by By Kaitlyn Gibbens, May 24, 2024)


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