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A Rodgers and Hart Holiday

| November 27, 2016

A Rodgers and Hart Holiday

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, November 23, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart

Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart

On the eve of Thanksgiving, producer-host Scott Siegel demonstrated in word and song the depth of gratitude owed the brilliant talents of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart. The pair, who wrote a plethora of classic songs from 1919 to Hart’s death in 1943, produced many iconic numbers, such as the show opener “Manhattan” (which catapulted them to fame in 1925), sung neatly and sweetly by Walker Jones. Two alumni from Siegel’s annual Broadway’s Rising Stars concerts were featured during the evening: Ross Brown, with a honeyed baritone and perfect diction, sang “I Could Write a Book,” while the rich-voiced Emily Iaquinta offered “Falling in Love with Love,” which typifies the complexity and often dark nature of Hart’s lyrics. Hart was largely an unhappy soul whose wordplay could be as cutting as it was sophisticated, illustrated by “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”—offered by actress-impressionist Christina Bianco, in her own voice. She has a slightly nasal belt, but it’s applied with intelligence to the music beyond mere power-singing. Stephen DeRosa, with his animation and bits of business, is an actor first who happens to sing awfully well. He interpreted the lesser known “Nobody’s Heart (Belongs to Me)” as a poignant tribute to the bite of a Hart lyric.

Baritone Cooper Grodin sang an intensely beautiful, tender “Isn’t It Romantic” with a seductive a cappella introduction. His steady, controlled delivery of the song was superbly evocative. In sharp contrast, his capacity to mesmerize fled with a disappointing Las Vegas lounge interpretation of the usually charming “Where or When.” Likewise, Alan Gillespie’s odd lounge version of “Blue Moon” was a miss; his rendition of “It Never Entered My Mind” fared much better, even if some upper notes were strained. Lisa Brescia, with a bright voice of gentle power, cleanly sang “There’s a Small Hotel” and “My Romance.” A Mermanesque Farah Alvin belted “Johnny One Note” with sufficient volume and gusto, but Alvin’s show-closer was a wobbly version of one of the most frequently sung and recorded Songbook numbers, “My Funny Valentine.” This gem requires more nuance and shading than given it by Alvin, but her rendition was in keeping with an overall presentation unusual for Siegel – one of uneven talent gone pear-shaped. As always, Music Director Ross Patterson proved to be a one-man orchestra with his vibrant piano accompaniment.

 

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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