Monday Night at 8:40

March 24, 2010

I went to the Library of Congress on Monday night to see the concert version of Life Begins at 8:40.  The original show was a 1943 revue featuyring the music of Harold Arlen and the lyrics of both Yip Harburg and Ira Gershwin, and featured both Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr. Notice the Wizard of Oz trio there.)  The featured a number of songs that have gone on to a further life, including You’re a Builder Upper, Fun to Be Fooled, and Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block, but no mega-hit.

The current concert reflects the work of scholars from the Library of Congress to reconstruct the score and the folks from PS Classics who will be recording a studio version with the assembled cast.  And what a cast they were, including stars of the recent Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, Kate Baldwin and Christopher Fitzgerald, local boy-made-good Brad Oscar, and those delightful divas Rebecca Luker and Faith Prince. 

In the first act, the performers looked amazing, were energetic, and from what I could tell gave vocally lovely performances.  Frustratingly, there was a decision not to amplify the singers.  And with a 20+ piece orchestra onstage with them, even these first-rate performers didn’t have a chance.  I found it all so frustrating that I left at intermission (and caught the very end of the DC Cabaret Network Open Mic).

However, it does make me really look forward to the forthcoming CD !


Chita Rivera in Playbill Online

November 10, 2009

Chita RiveraThe Playbill Online Diva Talk column has a great interview with Chita Rivera discussing her terrific new CD:

Question: How did you go about choosing the songs?

Rivera: I’ve just got this unbelievable repertoire of theatre songs. So Michael decided, why don’t we do our show and just change all the arrangements. Give them another face. And that’s what we’ve done. I think that, should I do another album, which I think I would like to do, I think probably I would then do [a jazz CD]… I used to talk to Rosemary Clooney, who was a friend, and I would say, “That’s what I want to do at some time in my life! I want to sing some Johnny Mercer. I want to sing some fabulous jazz composers’ songs.” I think this is a step towards that.

Plus it has reviews of the new Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker, and Kate Baldwin CDs.


The Ravishing Rebecca Luker

November 7, 2009

Rebecca Luker: Greenwich TimeWow, have we been lucky to have a number of stunning new CDs debut in recent weeks.  And Rebecca Luker’s new CD Greenwich Time is right there at the front of the pack.

For the CD, Luker chooses generally-obscure songs with a theatrical pedigree — many from shows that were never produced.  (DC audiences saw Luker perform many of these numbers in her Kennedy Center show earlier this year.)  It says a lot when In a Very Unusual Way is the best-known song on a CD.  However Luker’s evangelical spirit for the material gives the recording a special energy.

There are many terrific moments on the CD.  For me the best is a Jeff Blumenkrantz song Lovely Lies, a frank confession by a Southern daughter to her mother.  He Never Did That Before is a comic tour de force.  And having seen Luker as the replacement in Nine, it is wonderful to have her performance of In a Very Unusual Way saved for history.

Luker is as perfect a theatrical soprano as one could ask for.  Her vocal production is an example for all of us lesser singers.  But she is a story-teller at heart, and she never sacrifices communicative directness for vocal effect.  When I saw her concert, I felt that she established such strong characters for each song, that the effect was was slightly disjointed; however this recording feels much more integrated.  And Thalken’s arrangements suit Luker and her communicative approach perfectly.

  • On My Way To You
  • Ohio, 1904
  • Billions Of Beautiful Boys
  • Killing Time
  • Greenwich Time
  • Remember
  • Unusual Way
  • Lovely Lies
  • He Never Did That Before
  • Out Of Love
  • Whata The Living Do
  • Birthday Horoscope For B.R.
  • Have Had
  • Summer With You 

Hopelessly self-referential

November 12, 2008

OK, it’s an Internet thing, but I’m oddly thrilled that Rebecca Luker(‘s people) copied my post about her recent KenCen concert onto her site under “Reviews” as well as including a link back to here.  And the only thing that got edited out was the reference to Sally Martin’s CD.


Great performances this weekend!

November 6, 2008

In addition to CHAWbaret on Friday and Saturday nights, there are some blockbuster events in town!

Rebecca Luker presents “Songs for the Theater: The Next Generation as part of the Kennedy Center’s Barbara Cook Spotlight Series on Saturday, 8 November at 7:30pm.  The show is previewed in the Backstage column of today’s Post.

Broadway “it-girl” Christine Ebersole and the eternally dashing James Naugton appear at Strathmore on Sunday evening, 9 November, 7:00pm.