By Maia Nolan
Daily News correspondent
“You might recognize this next number.”
That was the mantra repeated throughout the opening night performance of “Veronica and John: Together Again” on Thursday night as local vocalists Veronica Page and John Fraser worked their way through a 12-song set of Broadway favorites ranging from Cole Porter classics to contemporary hits, accompanied on piano by Tom Bargelski.
The evening got off to a bit of a rocky start; the audience at first seemed unsure of how to react to Page and Fraser’s cabaret banter and the opening number, a cheeky rendition of Porter’s “You’re the Top,” was slightly off-key.
Within a few minutes, however, Fraser had broken the ice with a hammy version of another Porter favorite, “Love For Sale,” and Page had vamped her way through Ruth Brown’s “If I Can’t Sell It, I’ll Sit On It.” By the time the duo launched into “Bosom Buddies” from “Mame,” they’d warmed up their voices as well as the crowd and started to hit their stride.
There were a few more patchy moments — the transitions between numbers tended to be uneven, and there were some lengthy pauses while sheet music was shuffled — but they seemed to be the sort of bumps that are common early in a run and work themselves out within the course of the first couple of shows.
The venue, Alaska Wild Berry Theater, is a beautiful space, although the acoustics were occasionally muddy, and the stage is set back from the first row of seats, which made Page and Fraser feel too far away at times. Considering it’s a cabaret-style show, more effective use might have been made of the space in front of the stage to bring the performers closer to the audience.
Page and Fraser are great fun to watch, and there’s no question: They can sing. Fraser tended to be tentative at times, leaving his voice sounding unsupported, but when he cut loose he brought down the house, particularly on numbers from “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Chicago.”
Page didn’t fully unleash her pipes until three-quarters of the way through the set, when she opened up and shined on “Maybe This Time” from the film version of “Cabaret.” Both singers flirted shamelessly with the audience and were clearly having a ball.
The highlight of the evening was a performance of “Suddenly Seymour,” a duet from “Little Shop of Horrors” that is one of the more beautiful contemporary Broadway ballads and a song well-suited to the pairing of Page and Fraser’s voices.
Aside from the minor hitches mentioned, “Veronica and John: Together Again” is delightful and provides musical theater buffs with the all-too-rare opportunity to hear their favorite songs performed by fine singers with a passion for Broadway.
Page and Fraser’s performances at the Wild Berry Theater are followed by local comedy improv troupe Scared Scriptless. Fans of the television show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” owe it to themselves to check out the real deal, live, in person, and with audience participation. Thursday night’s show included an improvised song about crossing guards, two comedians miming a camel attack, and guest appearances by burlesque acrobats.
"Veronica and John: Together Again" runs at 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. through July 28 at Alaska Wild Berry Theater, 5225 Juneau Street. Scared Scriptless improv troupe follows the show. Park at Alaska Wild Berry Products or Sourdough Mining Company and follow the signs through the woods at the south end of the parking lot. Tickets are $16 (show only) or $39 (includes dinner at Sourdough Mining Company) at 263-2787 or CenterTIx.
Maia Nolan lives and writes in Anchorage.