Wesla Whitfield: The Best Is Yet to Come!

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Wesla Whitfield

The Best Is Yet to Come!

Society Cabaret, San Francisco, CA, January 13, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Wesla Whitfield
Wesla Whitfield

The perennial couple of cabaret, Wesla Whitfield and husband/arranger/pianist Mike Greensill, know that time is the great equalizer. In times of great turmoil, as we’re clearly witnessing now, there is room for optimism, because the pendulum will once again swing.

Representing both the classy and the classic, Whitfield and Greensill have been presenting the history of popular music for decades now, and this show was comprised of many of the great songs of Arthur Schwartz, the couple are a testament to enduring quality.

Sandwiched between two eternally optimistic songs, “Look for the Silver Lining” (Jerome Kern/Buddy De Sylva) and a sweet rendition of Irving Berlin’s “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow,” the trio (Dean Reilly on bass) lovingly worked their way through songs unsung for many a moon. “He Loves Me” (Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick) and “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” (Brook Bowman) display Whitfield and Greensill’s style—perfect tone and phrasing, sterling arrangements and solid bass lines. First up in the Arthur Schwartz repertoire was “By Myself,” 1937’s much-covered standard with lyrics by Howard Dietz. It would later find a home in the 1953 musical comedy The Band Wagon, the first of three numbers culled from that film.

From their usual “wildly romantic ballad” portion of the show, Whitfield crooned the wistful “Something to Remember You By” and “You and the Night and the Music” (Schwartz/Dietz) balanced by the songwriting team’s comic novelty, “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” which the husband and wife performed at the Clinton White House.

Greensill and Reilly took flight on “Starlight Souvenirs” (Lewis Llda/Reginald Connelly/Ted Shapiro), with Reilly playing the pocket trumpet. They followed that up with Schwartz and Dietz’s cute “Got a Bran’ New Suit,” introduced by Ethel Waters in the revue At Home Abroad (1935).

A set highlight was 1934’s “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” Schwartz and Yip Harburg’s homage to enduring love. Whitfield’s introduction to Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” belies her guarded optimism. She says, “For everyone living in a fantasy, don’t come out.” Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill, like the music they breathe, will outdistance any temporary turmoil and I’ll gladly go along for that ride.

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.