An Evening of Classic Broadway

Upstairs at Vitello's
North Hollywood, CA
There’s nothing like the pleasure of hearing great Broadway songs written by great Broadway songwriters sung by great singers — and when the songs come from the classic period of the mid-20th century, there’s always the potential for sheer theatrical magic.

Such is the case with the series of shows Fraser Entertainment Group is producing, presenting terrific singers from the worlds of theater and cabaret that keep an audience thoroughly entertained.

In this third monthly edition, the energy never wavered as host and Musical Director Brad Ellis quipped and nimbly-fingered his way through an evening of excellent music.

Among the strongest moments was Pat Whiteman performing a dynamic, thrilling version of “Fifty Percent” (Billy Goldenberg/Alan & Marilyn Bergman, from Ballroom) — singing the opening portion quietly and wistfully, then growing more dramatic and powerful as the song progressed.  It brought the house down. Whiteman was also strong and edgy in a full-throated take on “When You’re Good to Mama” (Kander & Ebb, from Chicago) that included more sexual energy and innuendo than she has exhibited in previous performances of the song.

Another standout — in a totally different way — was Jennifer Malenke, recreating one of her songs from the most recent revival of Into the Woods — singing “No One Is Alone” (Stephen Sondheim) beautifully and ardently, with a gorgeous modulation on the last two lines.  She was also outstanding on the title song from The Light in the Piazza (Adam Guettel) — a mesmerizing, powerful aria showing off her glorious soprano voice.

Jen Foster demonstrated her wide range, belting out “I’m the Greatest Star” (Jule Styne/Bob Merrill, from Funny Girl), then doing a complete 180 with a sweet, tender turn on “Frank Mills” (Galt McDermot/James Rado, from Hair). And Paul Wong was effective in his simple, truthful delivery of “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” paired with “Look to the Rainbow” (Burton Lane/Yip Harburg, from Finian’s Rainbow).

Ellis was joined by his wife, Eydie Alyson, for a clever take on Irving Berlin’s “Play a Simple Melody,” with its syncopated counter-melody — a number that started with him singing “You’re Just in Love” (from Call Me Madam) and her singing “An Old-Fashioned Wedding” (from Annie, Get Your Gun) before getting the right combination of songs.  Alyson also was solid in an effective take on “You Can Always Count on Me” (Cy Coleman/David Zippel, from City of Angels).

Joey Bybee sang sweetly in a hilarious performance of “If You Could See Her” (“The Gorilla Song”) (Kander & Ebb, from Cabaret), using a prop female dummy that turned out to be a man, complete with appendage. Damon Kirsche showed off his mellifluous baritone on a medley from 42nd Street (Harry Warren/Al Dubin), and Todd Sherry demonstrated his ability to make an audience laugh or cry on his two songs — an animated “Singin’ in the Rain” (Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed) and a sweet, tender “Losing My Mind” (Sondheim, from Follies).

Dianne Fraser, the evening’s producer, also took a turn with a sincere, well-sung “Bill” (Oscar Hammerstein/P.G. Wodehouse, from Showboat) that added an unexpected twist when Ellis’s arrangement took a sexy tone as she sang the lyrics “And yet to be upon his knee/Seems comfy and roomy and natural to me.”

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
August 25, 2014
www.cabaretscenes.org