Barry Levitt: The Maestro and His Music

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Barry Levitt: The Maestro and His Music

Urban Stages, NYC, December 12, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes


Barry Levitt

Winter Rhythms 2017 opened with a warm-hearted salute to the late Barry Levitt, the much-respected and loved Broadway, Off-Broadway, jazz, and cabaret musician, musical director, and composer. The ambitious program featured 16 vocalists, two music director-pianists, and four musicians, presenting works either composed or arranged by Levitt. Among those arrangements was one of his last – “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer) – for Dawn Derow’s salute to 1941, My Ship (the show The Maestro was working on when he unexpectedly and suddenly was stricken). Derow performed the number in exquisite voice, with plenty of heart (it was the very last piano piece Levitt ever played). Warren Schein, possessed of a silky baritone and full of shtick, offered standup and “Catskills Memory” (Niki Seed/Schein) as a tribute to Levitt’s professional start in the Borscht Belt. Ann Dawson (wearing the late Dana Lorge’s jacket for good luck), who also met Levitt in the Catskills, performed the Shelton Brooks standard, “Some of These Days.” Levitt compositions included “Devil in Miss Jones” (lyrics by Jack Wrangler) sung by Kati Neiheisel, and “So Happy,” sung by its lyricist, Sunny Leigh.

Many of the compositions presented in The Maestro and His Music were with lyricist Peter Napolitano, including “Prisoner of Love” (the title song of her latest cabaret show) sung by Andrea Bell Wolff. Trezana Beverley, in character as Mabel Mercer, performed “The Story Is My Song” from her one-woman musical, Mabel Madness. Janice Hall and Brian Charles Rooney, who never ceases to amaze, executed three songs from the work in progress, the musical That Way, with acting skills to the fore. A video of The Maestro singing and playing his favorite song, “Pennies from Heaven” (Arthur Johnston/Johnny Burke), ended the tribute, with the entire cast and audience singing it in closing. Other performers who splendidly entertained with plenty of talent were Deb Berman, Erin Cronican, Valerie DiLorenzo, Richard Eisenberg, Helena Grenot, Sue Matsuki, and Charlie Romo. Co-music directors were John di Pinto and Mark Janas. Guest accompanists were Gregory Toroian and Tuffus Zimbabwe. Hats off to the duo of Boots Maleson on bass and Howie Gordon on drums, who provided rhythmic back up, solidly covering numerous styles, tempos and personnel changes with sublime skill. Barry Levitt: The Maestro and His Music was produced and hosted by Stephen Hanks and directed by Peter Napolitano.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.