Todd Murray: Croon

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Todd Murray


Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, Studio City, CA, November 14, 2019

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Todd Murray

Todd Murray’s crooning will have you swooning. 

Murray is a masterful singer with a straightforward style and a smooth delivery who conveys total sincerity in every song, using his deep resonant bass-baritone voice to caress each lyric to startlingly beautiful effect.

In a show about how the introduction of the microphone impacted singing styles, Murray crooned his way through the decades to demonstrate how amplified sound enhanced singers’ abilities to be more intimate with listeners and to add more sensual layers to their presentations.

He certainly succeeded in that task, backed by three excellent musicians who also sing—one of the reasons each was hired, he explained. Those musicians are Alex Rybeck on piano, Steve Doyle on bass, and Sean Harkness on guitar, who provided both top-notch instrumental support and beautiful vocal harmonies.

Tracing the history of crooning from its start in the mid-1920s—when it was considered scandalous because of its potentially sexual appeal—Murray entered the room from the audience, singing Rodgers and Hart’s “Lover” a cappella and without a mic to demonstrate how music sounded before electronic enhancement.   Moving to the stage, he used a mic to sing a more intimate, enhanced version of the song.

He performed a sweet, serious version of “Learn to Croon” (Arthur Johnson/Sam Coslow) and a quietly sensual rendition of “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington) in which his voice swelled and receded by using the power that the mic allowed.

The rest of the show consisted of one hit after another, sung in Murray’s authentic, full-throated voice, including “You Are Too Beautiful” (Rodgers & Hart) which was literally too beautiful for words; a powerful take on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” (Duke Ellington/Bob Russell); and a superbly lush version of “You’ll Never Know” (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon).

There was also a soft, intimate “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” (Osvaldo Farres/Joe Davis), a smooth, swinging take on Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and a sonorous “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” (George Weiss/Hugo Peretti/Luigi Creatore).

Murray got audience members involved on a deep, dynamic “You’ll Never Find” (Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff), encouraging them to sing the recurring lyric “You’re gonna miss my loving” and ending the song with what he called “a ‘70s fade.”

He excelled on a powerful “If Ever I Would Leave You” (Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe); a smooth, expressive “This Guy’s in Love” (Burt Bacharach/Hal David) that featured a nice modulation; and a quietly thoughtful take on Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.”

He also sang an original song, “And I’m Leaving Today,” (or which Murray wrote the lyrics), with music by Rybeck). This was an intense ballad about getting away, either to find one’s own self or to find one’s way back to a lover, a choice the song does not resolve.

Murray, who’s been touring this show sporadically for nearly a decade, wrapped up the night of crooning — which was directed by Clifford Bell —with a beautifully sung version of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky),” combined with a sincere, heartfelt “I Wish You Love” (Leon Chauliac/Albert A. Beach).

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.