Wesla Whitfield & Mike Greensill: High Standards

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Wesla Whitfield & Mike Greensill

High Standards

Society Cabaret at the Rex Hotel, San Francisco, CA, June 13, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Wesla-Whitfield-Mike-Greensill-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill, the Bay Area’s prized jewels of sophisticated, elegant interpretations of the Great American Songbook, decided this go- round to concentrate on more popular classics they call “high standards.” Their set focused on hidden gems and lesser-known compositions mingled with popular tunes all respectfully researched and delivered with class and effortless artistry.

Mike opened with a trio of instrumentals from the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz songbook —“I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” “A Shine on Your Shoes” and “Something to Remember You By”—played in his bouncy, very rhythmic style. “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Mack Gordon/Josef Myrow) from 1946 and “My Melancholy Baby” (George A. Norton/Ernie Burnett) written in 1912 focused on Wesla’s gentle, understated vocals, buoyed by husband Mike’s sophisticated arrangements.

They have in mind a project involving two Tony Bennett/Bill Evans collaborations: 1975’s The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album and 1977’s Together Again. They performed a number of selections from the 1975 effort and this reviewer can’t wait for the completed show

Never pushing a melody or using volume or flashy subterfuge, these two masters of their craft would rather let the songs be absorbed intellectually and emotionally. “Comes Love” (Sam H. Stept/Lew Brown/Charlie Tobias) and “I Thought About You” (Johnny Mercer/Jimmy Van Heusen), both written in 1939, illustrate the theme of the show brilliantly. The former, an up-tempo love song and the latter a dreamy ballad, find Wesla and Mike setting a high standard indeed.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.