Peisha McPhee: A Family Affair

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Peisha McPhee

A Family Affair

Irvine Barclay Theatre, Irvine, CA, November 19, 2022

Reviewed by Les Traub

Katherine McPhee-Foster, Peisha McPhee, Adriana McPhee

A show entitled A Family Affair starring a mother, two daughters, and a son-in-law leads one to think that there might be some unevenness in the talent range. In the case of Peisha McPhee, daughters Adriana McPhee and Katharine McPhee-Foster, and son-in-law David Foster there was no cause for concern. This cabaret concert in a beautiful theater felt like it could have been a warm gathering of family and friends in Peisha’s living room celebrating her 70th birthday. She announced that milestone at the outset. Looking years younger, she telegraphed by that bit of information that we would be hearing from a person, not a persona.

Her effective choice of opening numbers became apparent after she spoke of her childhood dreams of leaving her native Spokane for greener pastures. That longing was effectively conveyed in the dreamily performed “A Piece of Sky” (Alan & Marilyn Bergman/Michel Legrand) and by the ambition stated in the driven version of “More” (Stephen Sondheim). Her voice, all present in full range, belied her 70 years.

She introduced her music director Michael Orland by singing “I Love a Piano” (Irving Berlin). She also set up a narrative theme of literally knocking on doors, which was how she met Orland, and guest star Monica Mancini, and how she got a distribution deal with another guest star, Lee Lessack and his LML Music. Orland’s arrangements and accompaniment worked beautifully for the wide range of material.

Daughters Katharine and Adriana came next with a joyous medley of “Sisters” (Berlin), “If Momma Was Married” (Sondheim with special lyrics by Lorin Henner), and “Mama, A Rainbow” (Hal Hackady/Larry Grossman). This featured cute byplay and spotlighted the obvious affection between the sisters.

Lessack joined Peisha for a duet on “Grateful” (John Bucchino), and their voices blended well together. For a change of pace, she then duetted with Ann Hampton Callaway on “Blues in the Night” (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen). Displaying her versatility, Peisha matched Callaway, wail for wail on the song, and together they brought down the house.

Adriana took a solo spot with a playful “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” (Andy Razaf/Thomas “Fats” Waller) and a gorgeous take on “More Than You Know” (Vincent Youmans/William Rose/Edward Eliscu). Another duet followed when Peisha was joined by Mancini (who certainly knows her way around her father’s songs) on “Two for the Road” and “Moon River” (both by Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini). These two songs also echoed Peisha’s journey.

Son-in-law David Foster kicked up the energy level and instantly connected with the audience with his informality and humor before performing a medley of songs that he had written with Peter Cetera for the band Chicago. He then accompanied his wife, Katharine, on “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks) from their new Christmas CD. Katharine joked that “Singin’ in the Rain,” her song choice for The Masked Singer, probably got them kicked off that show, but it certainly was a delight to hear in Irvine. She finished her set with “Over the Rainbow” (E.Y. Harburg/Harold Arlen) and showed all the emotion and magic she had displayed when she first sang it on American Idol.

Peisha’s turn to wrap things up featured some appropriately reflective songs for someone at 70 years of age. “Being Alive” (Sondheim) and “That’s All” (Alan Brandt/Bob Haymes)/“Here’s to Life” (Artie Butler/Phyllis Molinary) were preceded by the whole group doing “That’s Life” (Dean Kay/Kelly Gordon).

The show wasn’t overly scripted, which led to some nice moments of spontaneity. This Family Affair gave the audience the treat of hearing beautiful voices and having the opportunity to be part of the celebration.

Les Traub

Les Traub has been covering the cabaret scene for over twenty years. He is a co-founder and President of Cabaret West and has produced cabaret shows at the Jazz Bakery, Cinegrill, Gardenia, El Portal Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and at UCLA. He co-produced and wrote a Sammy Cahn tribute show at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. He is Chairman of the Board of Musical Theatre Guild, where he co- produced Sail Away, High Spirits, Little Mary Sunshine and Street Scene at the Alex Theatre. He has lectured on cabaret in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Connecticut. .