Winter Rhythms: Songs of Hope

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Winter Rhythms

Songs of Hope

Urban Stages, NYC, December 22, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Tom Toce

Hope, it seems, has many faces. Poets have called it “the thing with feathers” (Emily Dickenson) and that which “springs eternal in the human breast” (Alexander Pope). To Tom Toce (pictured), producer of the Urban Stages Winter Rhythms series and of its last program, Songs of Hope, hope is rooted in the Greek myths of fire-bringer Prometheus and in the contents of Pandora’s box. And so, in a very personal way, 17 performers sang 18 versions of the thing we optimistically and fervently “desire with anticipation.”

For Lynn Henderson, who announced an amazing recent health recovery, hope was embodied in “Because I Can” (Lew Spence/Tom Toce). Telling of a particularly serious time of misfortune in his life, Eric Michael Gillett sang “The Skin of Our Teeth” (John Kander/Fred Ebb). Lauren Stanford, remembering a dear friend’s death, offered “The Luckiest” (Ben Folds), while Ann Kittredge, in a special tribute to her mother, gave an exquisite performance of the medley “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” (Helen Deutsch/ Bronislau Kaper)/“Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” (Bob Merrill).

Three pianists showcased their offerings: Steve Ross sang a completely masterful interpretation of “Yes” (Kander & Ebb), Douglas J. Cohen performed his own “Thank You for Today,” and Julie Gold wowed with her huge hit, “From a Distance.” Bidden by Toce to “sing something serious,” Sidney Myer put his unique and quite wonderful stamp on “Nothing Is Too Wonderful to Be True” (Kander & Ebb), while Natalie Douglas hit a grand slam of perfection with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Paul Simon). Bill Dyszel’s choice of “Without a Song” (Edward Eliscu/Billy Rose/Vincent Youmans) perhaps most embodied the reason why Toce chose this theme of hope: as a beacon of light in our very troubled times.

Others who contributed with heartfelt sincerity on the theme of hope were Mardie Millit, Renee Katz, Cynthia Crane, Christine Lavin, Mark William, and Trazana Beverley with Tuffus Zimbabwe. Bookending the show was Toce with “Day Has Ended” (Thomas Oler/Toce), a lullaby for his grandson, and his own “The Best Christmas Yet,” a comic ode to hope—and the perfect way to end a show and a series. Music director for Songs of Hope was pianist Jon Delfin.

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.