Broadway by the Tear: Broadway’s Great Torch Songs & Tear Jerkers

| August 10, 2017

Broadway by the Tear:

Broadway’s Great Torch Songs & Tear Jerkers

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 29, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Garth Kravitz

For those who like a little pain with their pleasure, producer/host Scott Siegelmastermind behind the Broadway by the Year series of concerts—served up a socko helping of both. For all the suffering and torment on stage, Siegel was never funnier in his introductions and comments, providing a counterweight to a show about “the human condition, Broadway style.” The first footstep on the via dolorosa belonged to Farah Alvin, who applied her big voice to the ultimate in heartbreak songs, “I (Who Have Nothing)” (based on “Uno Dei Tanti” by Carlo Donida/Giulio Rapetti; English lyrics by Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller). The song was first recorded in English by Ben E. King, and ultimately found its way into Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Alvin has a fine, true voice, but has yielded to the current style of belting for its own sake. As a result, her rendition was full of angst and anger, lacking the pathos and desperation of the lyrics, so apparent in King’s version. Pepe Nufrio with “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” from The New Moon (Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II) delivered the number in the fine operatic style of the period (1928), but went off the scale with an over-enthusiastic vocalization. A little restraint would have provided a powerful soupçon more torment.

The problem with vocal gymnastics is that nuance and critical interpretation are lost. This was far from the case with Jenny Lee Stern, who plumbed the depths of character in Evita’s “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice), revealing well-honed acting ability. She also excelled at storytelling with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s extraordinary “Burn” from Hamilton, fiercely communicating stunning authenticity—with multiple layers of emotion—in portraying the agony of a woman betrayed. Alvin, with actor’s hat in place, with Rashas Naylor and the impressive Remy Zaken, created an entire affecting drama with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’s “The I Love You Song” (William Finn). Also scoring a success in interpreting the aching heart was Garth Kravitz (pictured) who, with “Being Alive” from Company, established himself as a perfect Stephen Sondheim poster boy. With West Side Story’s “One Hand, One Heart” (Leonard Bernstein/Sondheim), Kravitz’s light was dimmed by an awkward pairing with operatic soprano Meredith Ingelsby. Both were effective in their own ways, but failed to mesh as a pair.
Also appearing in this show, offering a variety of songs in a range of styles and decibel levels, were Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Philippa Lynas, Morissa Trunzo, and Mia Gerachis. Musical director and pianist was the hard-working Ryan Shirar.

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

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