Alysha Umphress & Jeff Blumenkrantz: Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz

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Alysha Umphress & Jeff Blumenkrantz

Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz

The Green Room 42, NYC, January 20, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Alysha Umphress and Jeff Blumenkrantz

Adolph Green and Betty Comden delighted in performing cabaret shows where they blended their personalities as they created marvelous evenings. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé built a dual career by bantering and harmonizing at the same time. Broadway’s Alysha Umphress and Jeff Blumenkrantz possess the same kind of chemistry as they showed when they returned to The Green Room 42 for a magical evening of vocal harmonies, solos, duets, and even trios with their guest star, Tony-nominated Kenita R. Miller. They explored the great catalogue of Broadway showtunes, many in surprising combinations, along with Blumenkrantz’s own catalog. It was a polished gem of a show, and the packed house loved every minute of it.

They began the show in the dark with an a cappella introduction to “Soon It’s Going to Rain” (Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt) which expanded into a medley with “Right as the Rain” (Harold Arlen/E.Y. “Yip” Harburg) with Blumenkrantz at the piano (where he remained throughout the evening). The perfect melding of the two songs, and the gorgeous harmony, and the surprising delicacy of the singers’ delivery combined to promise a very special evening. This was followed by a medley of songs from Gypsy that allowed for some Broadway razzle-dazzle and some expert belting by Umphress. In this show, Umphress showed off her lovely soprano range as well as her well-recognized belt on such numbers as the Blumenkrantz’s “You’re Not Perfect Anymore,” a funny rant about the break-up of a less than perfect relationship.

Several more songs that Blumenkrantz wrote in part or entirely were highlights, including Miller’s torchy vocal on “Walking the Wrong Way” (Blumenkrantz/Libby Saines) and Blumenkrantz’s own humorous and autobiographical “It’ll Work for You,” a slightly confused mother’s advice to her out-of-the-closet son. There was also an exquisite “Four Seasons in One Day” (Neil Finn/Tim Finn) delivered as a duet by the two women. The three joined forces for a bluesy “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (Lerner & Loewe), and Blumenkrantz and Umphress duetted on another surprising combination of songs—“You Are Never Away” and “Ten Minutes Ago” (both Rodgers & Hammerstein). The magical evening came to a close when Umphress and Blumenkrantz sat at the piano and dedicated a song to their husbands—the gentle “Come to Me, Bend to Me” (Lerner & Loewe). It sent the audience away on a truly magical carpet of romance.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."