These songs are crammed with emotion 

Take the elevator to the third floor of the Auditorium Center and see Portraits Friday or Saturday; there's no more time left. This revival of a show bountiful in musical pleasures and local talents will surprise, please, and satisfy you.

The surprise is that, with few production values and no storyline, a full-length musical of nothing but songs can be so grabbing and entertaining. Most of that value comes from a remarkably gifted Rochester composer and lyricist, Mark Alan DeWaters. But he's blessed with a dedicated group of unusually fine singer-actors, all of whom return from the first production of Portraits and are on its original DVD. This production does require some changes due to the absence of two other original cast members, but these artists fill in those gaps splendidly.

DeWaters' memorable songs are all attractive, many quite beautiful, and always crammed with emotion. They portray lovers, young and old, angry and content, often amusing, and sometimes startling. There's a lesbian duet, a gay man's funny lament, a mistress' sad realization, and some defiant responses --- all entirely engaging.

One bitchy, comic song about theatrical egos isn't as funny as it might be. I found "NAMES," about the AIDS Quilt, overreaching. Those of us who have personal memories and feelings about powerful topics like loved ones lost to AIDS or the Holocaust require showbiz references to them to be overwhelmingly potent to avoid seeming manipulative. But the overall quality of the songs is extraordinary.

Diane Nuccitelli stages the performances with variety and theatrical pizazz. She gets big laughs choreographing a number that imagines a boring queue to become a line of dancers. DeWaters on keyboards and Ian Cohen on percussion provide amazingly full sound. And five great-looking women with three versatile men sing beautifully and make you understand and feel every single syllable of the lyrics.

Erin Koch and Dennis J. Pratt have truly remarkable voices, but Marc Raco, Timothy J. Kehl, Cindy Hill, Andrea Majewski Erskine, Karen McCulley, and Kathryn Dyer sing not only well but with the acting chops to become differing characters and convey various emotions to great effect.

Portraitsby Mark Alan DeWaters, directed by Diane Nuccitelli, plays at the Auditorium Center, 3rd Floor, 875 Main Street East, Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12 to $18. 624-8360,

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