Kurtis Overby, Liz Fallon Carolyn McPhee, Jamie Parnell: Crazy for Gershwin

Kurtis Overby, Liz Fallon
Carolyn McPhee and Jamie Parnell

Crazy for Gershwin

Arizona Broadway Theatre, Peoria, AZ, February 26, 2021

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Kurtis Overby

Start with a stick of butter. That is the culinary equivalent when you conceive a cabaret with the songs of George and Ira Gershwin.
When you combine it with a quartet of fine singers, a dash of humor, add a cup of tap dancing and whip it up on a stunning set left over from a shuttered production of Chicago, you know it is going to be yummy. Kurtis Overby (pictured), the Associate Artistic Director of the Arizona Broadway Theatre is known for his direction and choreography of many Mainstage productions, as well as his accompaniment and funny emcee skills displayed on ABT’s After Dark Cabaret. But when called to duty, he can sing and dance his way further into our hearts. Overby crafted a cabaret of 20 numbers, including two medleys, that drew laughter and applause from the socially distanced audience back in ABT’s Mainstage Theater for the first time since March 2020. Dinner is still being served in the lobby; there is no service inside the theater, but this is a start.

George Gershwin is in my opinion the father of the Great American Songbook. He wrote more than 500 songs in his short life-span of 38 years. From which Overby selected many of Gershwin’s most familiar songs but also chose some lesser-known material to surprise the audience.
The full company opened with two upbeat numbers, “Slap That Bass” and “Shall We Dance,” which started with a slow tap and built into the fun that Overby told the audience was the number-one rule of the evening.

online pharmacy no prescription

His storytelling was charming as he spoke of growing up in North Carolina where Gershwin’s music was not commonly heard.
online pharmacy no prescription

He showed off his tap-dancing skills on numbers such as “I Can’t Be Bothered Now,” after which he made us laugh with a winded “It’s been 20 years since I’ve had to do that!”

The musical trio of Matthew Stephens on piano, Ted Sistrunk on bass, and Mark Stolper on drums was up to the challenge of Gershwin, and pianist/musical director Stephens shared one of the best numbers of the night when he joined Overby on a second piano with highlights from “Rhapsody in Blue.” Liz Fallon strikes me as a classic soubrette. Her voice is bright, and she flirts with the audience. She held her own as Overby’s tap partner and shined on “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “The Man I Love,” as well as in duets with Overby on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “Embraceable You.” She also made the old chestnut “A Foggy Day” a new swing through London town. Jamie Parnell has a classic baritone sound reminiscent of Robert Goulet, which is probably why he counts among his credits the role of Lancelot in Camelot. He got his solo turn on “Delishious,” “’S Wonderful,” and “Somebody Loves Me,” and put it all out there on a Chippendale plate with the little-known tune “Treat Me Rough.”

Carolyn McPhee had the deeper belt songs, “I’m a Poached Egg” and “Naughty Baby.” She shined with Fallon on “The Man That Got Away” (Ira Gershwin’s lyric and Harold Arlen music) and with Overby on piano in a mash-up with Fallon’s “But Not for Me.” There were nice moments of harmony on “Love is Here to Stay” and the finale “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” In true cabaret style, the cast took turns reminiscing about their first days with ABT. Most interesting was Fallon’s audition experience in NYC where in year one she got no callback and in year two she got cast in the lead of Sweet Charity.

Bravo to ABT producers Cassandra and Kiel Klaphake, who have persevered to keep the lights on for the most difficult year for theater in our lifetime. They have been creative for months, offering concerts and classes on-line, always keeping their patrons feeling loved and missed. Crazy for Gershwin takes them one step closer to their return to Arizona’s premiere dinner theater.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.