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Paulo Szot: Salute to Broadway

| June 13, 2017

Paulo Szot

Salute to Broadway

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, June 8, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Paulo Szot
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

In another universe, brilliant baritone Paulo Szot would be enjoying a career as a ballet master. Fortuitously, his career was diverted to opera and, by extension, to Broadway and popular music. Lucky are we, so blessed to have one of the world’s greatest voices take to the cabaret stage. That resonant and matchless voice, combined with movie-star looks, a winning personality, and superb material, is a formula for sublimity. And if all of this bounty weren’t enough, Szot was backed by musical genius in the form of Musical Director/pianist Billy Stritch, with swinging bassist Itaigura Brandao, and the incredibly talented drummer/percussionist David Meade. The band number, an energetic, jazzy “I Hear Music” (Burton Lane/Frank Loesser) set the tone for Szot’s dramatic entrance through the audience. In a rowdier ambience and locale, his electrifyingOn a Clear Day You Can See Forever”/”Come Back to Me” (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner), would certainly have caused room keys to be flung.

A new American citizen (and New Yorker), Sao Paulo-born Szot has that easy, joyful, confident persona innate to Brazilians. Yet, there’s a very subtle element of vulnerability lurking beneath the poise. It may not be overt, but it informs his interpretation of his material, especially in tackling the headiness of Stephen Sondheim. His “Being Alive” and “Too Many Mornings” resonated with emotion, as did lighter numbers, such as a bossa nova turn with Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners” and “You’re All the World to Me” (Lane/Lerner). Szot also offers a touch of wry comedy. He announces he’s about to play Juan Peron in an upcoming production of Evita (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice), launching into a medley, claiming he needs the practice. He adds a touch of humor to “Guido’s Song” (Maury Yeston), and bounces through a tribute to Cole Porter with a medley of “Too Darn Hot”/”Were Thine That Special Face”/”So in Love”/”Love for Sale”/”(You’d Be So) Easy to Love”/”From This Moment On.”

Curiously, in offering “Will the Music Come Again,” composed by his friend Bruce Zemsky, Szot enters into the territory of unmodulated belting. The result was jolting for its departure from his ability to dynamically bend and mold a song to his will with perfection – a skill magnificently illustrated by a Kismet medley of “Stranger in Paradise”/”And This Is My Beloved” (Robert Wright/George Forrest/Alexander Borodin). The cherry on the sundae, was, of course, “This Nearly Was Mine” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) from South Pacific, the musical that earned Szot his Tony Award. Did we say sublime?

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

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