Anne & Mark Burnell: The Brill Building Songwriters

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Anne & Mark Burnell

The Brill Building Songwriters

Skokie Theatre, Skokie, IL, October 28, 2016

Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes

Anne & Mark Burnell
Anne & Mark Burnell

While Anne and Mark Burnell may be best recognized for their excellent individual and shared jazz performances, in The Brill Building Songwriters they present a most entertaining evening of pop classics. Opening with “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil) set the lively tone. The Brill Building housed songwriters as early as the days of Tin Pan Alley, then through the heyday of rock and roll.

The Burnells focus on the productive pop/rock period from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Many the songs have interesting stories to tell. Performing a “mash up” (Mark got a good laugh reminding Anne that what they were presenting was an “arrangement”) of “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” not only reminded us of excellent dancing music that came from the Brill, but offered the opportunity to introduce a Latin Rhythm. Mark offered a simply delivered “Up on the Roof” (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) which enabled its poetic lyric to shine. Another highlight was Anne’s thoughtful delivery of “Alfie.” She offered the song as a meaningful challenge to the shallow character about whom it was penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. They salute Neil Sedaka (different from most of the other songwriters because he, rather than the other songwriters who wrote for others, made the most successful covers of his tunes) well with “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “Love Will Keep Us Together” and the lovely “Laughter In the Rain.” Musicianship and fun both shine in a Leiber & Stoller medley combining “Hound Dog,” ”Kansas City” and our favorite over-the counter drug, “Love Potion Number Nine.” Sidemen Eric Schneider on sax, Glen DeMichele on bass, and Nick Kitsos on drums added to the excellent musical layering.

Closing with Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and Bacharach/David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” felt just right. After all, it is so often pop music reminds us of our first loves.

Carla Gordon

Carla Gordon is a singer/songwriter, director, and producer. The Chicago Tribune cited her among “Chicago’s most accomplished cabaret performers….a major player in Chicago cabaret.” Reviewer Pam Peterson called her “Honey-voiced wisecracker!” Ageless Magazine called her performance as Sophie tucker, “A gem!” Gordon writes custom material for singers nationwide. Her flagship show, "Blacklisted," featuring songs made famous by artists blacklisted under McCarthyism, has toured to critical acclaim. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and on the Advisory Board of the Skokie Theater. Her songs air on WFMT’s Midnight Special and are being performed performed by cabaret artists nationwide.