BWW Reviews: JEROME KERN IN HOLLYWOOD - A Must-See Captivating Cabaret
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by David Clarke
Bayou City Concert Musicals has a track record of enjoyable and wholly entertaining performances. They burst onto the Houston Theatre scene with a concert production of FOLLIES. Since FOLLIES, Paul Hope has astounded audiences with productions of FALSETTOS, SHE LOVES ME, 70, GIRLS, 70, ASSASSINS, FIORELLO!, THE SECRET GARDEN, PAL JOEY, ON THE TOWN, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, FINNAN'S RAINBOW, and ONE TOUCH OF VENUS. Each of these shows was a sensational hit in its own time, but has been notoriously neglected as time merrily rolls along. Each of these concerts has been accompanied by a live orchestra, which only increases the price tag for producing the fabulous productions. To help keep ticket prices affordable, Paul Hope utilizes showcase cabarets as fundraisers. Like his concert productions, the cabarets are jam packed with the best of the best of Houston's musical theatre talent who only aim to captivate and enthrall. The latest cabaret, JEROME KERN IN HOLLYWOOD, is no exception.
Musical Direction by Heather Tipsword for JERMOE KERN IN HOLLYWOOD ensures that each of the chosen Jerome Kern pieces, mostly ballads, sounds lush, beautiful, and simply fantastic in performance. For many in the audience, a lot of the treasures are being heard for the first time. However, old Favorites are sprinkled in, bringing joyous grins and soft hums out of the contented audience.
Paul Hope serves as the evenings Master of Ceremonies, and much like The Man in the Chair from THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, he has researched juicy morsels of fascinating and scintillating moments from Jerome Kern's life that he shares with the audience. Each item shared has a historical relevance on the writing of the particular song being introduced, making the evening an intriguing night that is almost like a master class on Jerome Kern's Hollywood phase of his career.
Mitchell Greco opens the show with a well sung performance of "Lovely to Look At." During this number, he appeared nervous and was a bit stiff in his movements, but that had no affect on his voice. He sang with clarity and charm.
For the second number of the evening, "I Won't Dance," Jennifer Gilbert joined Mitchell Greco on stage. Mitchell Greco appeared to loosen up some, especially when they got to perform cute choreography. Jennifer Gilbert's performance had a natural energy and brightness that was captivating.
Danica Dawn Johnston accompanied Tye Blue for a powerful and simply awesome rendition of "I Dream Too Much." Both vocalists blended their immaculate voices to supply the audience with a rousing and Radiant duet.
Tye Blue remained on stage to perform "The Way You Look Tonight," which I never realized was a Jerome Kern song. In this number Tye Blue's magnetism easily charmed every member of the audience. His pristine vocalization was only matched by his dauntless charisma. As he finished the number, audible sighs of pure satisfaction could be heard from several members of the audience.
For "Can I Forget You" Grace Givens took the stage with such a strong personality and sense of character, that the audience was mesmerized even though she stood behind a microphone. During the number, she showcased expert control over her vibrato, singing the number with a stirring effect.
Joe Kirkendall's performance of "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" was made wonderful with his dapper and rich instrument. Both his face and voice sparkled in performance.
Susan Draper closed the first act with a delightfully humorous rendition of "You Couldn't Be Cuter." She effectively used her wiles to win the audience over with her bubbling spirit and lovely voice.
Opening the second act, Amanda Passanante's gorgeous instrument made her rendition of "Remind Me" both Stellar and unforgettable. Without a doubt, this is the best rendition of this song you'll have ever heard.
Refusing to let the number be cut from the program, Paul Hope lent his vocal talents to "The Last Time I Saw Paris." His interpretation ensured that every ounce of sentiment and sorrow read to the audience, leaving an indelible mark on our souls. It's not very often that audiences get to hear Paul Hope sing, so this was a delightful treat.
"You Were Never Lovelier" was magnificently and charismatically sung by Tye Blue. The song soared, taking the audience on a fantastic journey.
Grace Givens and her delightful personality graced audiences with a sumptuous and melodic performance of "Dearly Beloved." With her voice accompanying the music, she dazzled us and left us utterly spellbound. She captivated me so much with this performance, that I couldn't help but feel that I must see her tread the board as the title character in MAME.
With a great sense of humor and a visible glow, Paul Hope sang "I'm Old Fashioned." Here he showcased a strong and beautiful vocal instrument that thrilled the audience.
Susan Draper perfectly captured the humor and wit of "Can't Stop Singing." She emitted pizzazz and style throughout the entire number, and then left the audience in stitches as she held onto the final note for a surprisingly elongated time.
Mitchell Greco came to life and was naturally magnetic and alluring on "Sure Thing." Coming into his own, he really wowed the audience with this enchanting performance.
"Long Ago and Far Away" was strikingly and stunningly beautiful as sung by Danica Dawn Johnston. She brought emotional clarity to the song with extraordinary vocal and emotional expression.
Beth Lazarou shone on an exciting interpretation of "In Love In Vain." She put finely finessed power and emotion into the performance, making it reverberate in the hearts of the audience.
The whole cast joined together for an exquisite performance of "All the Things You Are" from VERY WARM FOR MAY. They perform it in the way that it was originally intended and written, which makes the performance rare. Susan Draper and Joe Kirkendall took the solos and everyone else filled in as chorus. The song is richly melodic and complex, but the performance was stunning, moving, and wonderful.
The opening performance of JEROME KERN IN HOLLYWOOD was marvelous, even if both Susan Shofner and Cole Ryden were unable to perform. They should be back in the show for the next two performances, which provides incentive for last night's audience to return. Moreover, Paul Hope has one of the best memories for local talent and manages to always find the perfect people for everything he does. Thus, JEROME KERN IN HOLLYWOOD is a must see cabaret performance featuring wonderful music and a mesmerizing cast.
Don't miss the upcoming performances on Monday, February 11 and 18, 2013. Tickets are $25.00 and are available by calling 713-465-6484 or online at http://bayoucityconcertmusicals.org/. Tickets may also be purchased at the door, but reservations are recommended.
Logo Image Courtesy of Bayou City Concert Musicals.