Some Fine Duets at Signature

Saw the opening of the final cabaret of the Signature Season, Broadway Duets, last night.

The show presents four young, winning performers performing a series of duets from theatrical musicals.  The pieces range from classic Berlin and R&H to modern writing.  The director of the show Matthew Gardiner introduced the piece admitting that finding material wasn’t as hard as deciding which songs to do — “when I saw how long the list was, it was a bit daunting but very exciting.”

The show was a fast-paced 90 minutes in cabaret-review style.  The first section used a series of classic duets to tell a boy-meets-girl (Could You Use Me), boy woos girl (You Are Woman), etc. story.  Then came an interesting selection of material from more contemporary writers such as As Long as You’re Mine from Wicked, Elaborate Lives from Aida, and Sailing from A New Brain.

Highlights of the show included Baila Whitten and Felicia Curry finding every nuance of hope and sarcasm in Dorothy Field’s Baby Dream Your Dream  lyric from Sweet Charity; Felicia Curry and James Gardiner making a three-act play out of Temp and the Receptionist from Homemade Fusion; and the company doing searing work on a medley of William Finn’s Goodbye/Boom Boom and Sondheim’s Who Could Be Blue / Little White House.

When I write that Howard Breitbart provided the music direction, readers of this column will instantly know that the accompaniment was superb and the singers will brilliantly and dramatically supported.

This is the sort of program that it is easy to have quibbles with.  But given that almost every show ever written has multiple duets, I give director Matthew Gardiner a lot of credit for the intelligent, varied selection assembled here.  I also thought that the piece was very well structured with a good flow and build.

Signature seems to be using the cabaret series as an opportunity to develop its younger roster of talent.  It was delightful to see these performers at the beginning of their careers — especially to be an early witness to Felicia Curry’s many gifts and to anticipate the day when James Gardiner will really hit the age for all the character roles he seems destined to play. 

If there is a quibble, the inevitable slapdash nature of the first performance along with the youth of the cast inevitably gave the proceedings a bit of a “Hey Gang, let’s put on a show !” vibe.  But on the other hand, it was brimming with the exuberant, open energy and sincerity of that genre, too.

The show runs through Saturday the 11th.  Tickets and info.

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