Crest Theatre, Delray Beach, FL, February 13, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey Bruce for Cabaret Scenes
The Crest Theatre in Delray Beach continued its Broadway Cabaret Series with Defying Gravity, a revue of songs by Stephen Schwartz.. In all honesty, I have always run hot and cold regarding the Schwartz canon and my feelings did not change as of last night.
A wonderful pianist/musical director, John Boswell, led a concert with Lisa Howard (pictured), Scott Coulter and Jason Graae in a 90-minute travelogue through Mr. Schwartz’s life, career and music. The problem was that there was far too much talking and not enough singing.
Coulter was the emcee and, while he has a lovely, angelic (very) high tenor, too many of his numbers were marred by what I call “Patinkin-ism’s”: facial tics and affectations. Yet, when he sang “straight,” as he did with the usually screamed at G-force decibel-deafening “Defying Gravity,” he was quite wonderful.
Graae is agreeably adorable and, luckily, has a terrific voice to accompany his ingratiating personality. He also is a talented oboeist which he displayed in two numbers. An experienced Pippin, his renditions of songs from that show were a welcome relief from some of the self-indulgence onstage.
As for Boswell at the piano, he sang, kidded around with the trio, and was one of the most impressive musical directors I have heard in our area.
I have saved the best for last. Lisa Howard all but stole the Broadway show It Shoulda Been You, and it is easy to see why. Replacing the scheduled Debbie Gravitte in this concert, Howard is, in a word, spectacular. A tall beauty, she has a voice with a range that is beyond impressive. From the lower depths to the highest heights she has a belt that is, in the kids’ vernacular, “just, like, awesome.” Her version of “Meadowlark” was stunning, but her first act closer from Rags, “Children of the Wind” (music by Charles Strouse), brought down the house. In this 90-minute show, Howard had the least to do. That was a shame, and I know we wanted so much more of her.
While the format is slim and casual, when everyone was on their game, the evening proved delightful. But, for future performances, let’s divvy up the numbers fairly, especially with a star like Lisa Howard. And, a little less talking, please. Let’s hear the music!