|Mary Feminear, James Knight, Hannah McDermott, Alexander McKissick, Avery Amereau, Josph Eletto, Benjamin Lund and Steven Blier
Last night's program centered on the lyrics of P.G. Wodehouse as set by Jerome Kern, with a couple songs by Cole Porter thrown in for good measure. Steven Blier (Pianist, Arranger and Host) gave us the lowdown on Mr. Wodehouse's primness and Cole Porter's raciness. He described Kern's music as akin to Schubert's and indeed, tenor Alexander McKissick's performance of "Go Little Boat" from Miss 1917 struck us as deeply as any of Schubert's lieder.
Baritone Benjamin Lund's artistry in "The Land Where the Good Songs Go" from the same work was equally beautiful. Could this show really be nearly a century old? We wish we could see it reprised one day but only if it were done with the same sincerity we heard from Mr. Lund and Mr. McKissick.
Soprano Mary Feminear allowed her sincerity to shine through as well in her lovely performance of the original "Bill", which began life in another show before winding up in Showboat.
Avery Amereau used her dusky mezzo to great advantage in "Siren's Song" from Leave It To Jane. To add to the overall effect she dressed herself as a flapper! It was delightful.
Baritone Joseph Eletto sang "My Castle in the Air" from Miss Springtime with the most affecting vibrato and phrasing. He was joined by the very funny tenor James Knight for an hilarious duet from the same show entitled "Saturday Night" about a woman who began the week with virtuous intention but whose "virtue sprang a leak" by the end of the week. Priceless! Mr. Knight's solo "Napoleon" from Have a Heart was LMAO funny, not only from the lyrics and his comedic style but also from the fact that he is 6'4".
There were other funny songs--mezzo Hannah McDermott delighted with "Cleopatterer" from Leave it to Jane. Mr. Wodehouse could certainly come up with some clever rhymes. She was just as delightful in the opening trio with Mr. Knight and Mr. Lund from the same show--"Sir Galahad', the message of which, strangely enough, did not sound at all dated.
More humor, and perhaps one of the funniest songs on the program, could be found in "We're Crooks" in which Mr. McKissick and Mr. Lund adopted heavy wise-guy accents. What made the song very timely were the references to Congress and Wall Street as being too crooked for the crooks' taste!
Mr. Blier considers Jerome Kern to be rather refined and Cole Porter to be rather risqué. The two songs chosen to be on the program to represent Mr. Porter were "You're the Top" and "Anything Goes", both of which were performed by the ensemble. It appeared that they enjoyed themselves as much as the audience.
This entire affair was staged by the brilliant director Mary Birnbaum, ensuring that each song's dramatic potential was mined. One doesn't get this quality in the typical cabaret show!
It was a most enjoyable evening and an introduction to many songs we had never met before but of which we were delighted to make the acquaintance. The only thing missing was Miles Mykkanen singing "Sing for Your Supper".
© meche kroop