Grateful by John Bucchino: The 15th Anniversary Concert

 

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Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.

 

On the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of his first album produced by a recording executive, John Bucchino appeared at 54 Below on September 9 for two shows. “Grateful by John Bucchino: the 15th Anniversary Concert” celebrates an offer he received from a recording executive friend fifteen years ago. Bucchino came up with an idea of his own songs sung by many of the singer friends he had met including Michael Feinstein and all the singers he asked accepted including Andrea Marcovicci, Patti LuPone, Art Garfunkel, Liza Minnelli, Anne Hampton Calloway. Lois Sage, and Judy Collins.

11987009_612370468903203_4875770490100110916_nBetween each selection Bucchino described how he wrote the songs, who sang them originally, where the ideas came from, and introduced the artists who sang them this night. Every performer was a winner, and the only original performer from the album was the great Brian Lane Green who spectacularly sang “Taking the Wheel,” with no diminishment in his great voice and lyric interpretation, backed up on the second chorus by the New York Gay Men’s Chorus. The New York Gay Men’s Chorus appeared earlier singing “That Smile” a song originally sung by Liza Minnelli in a Billy Stritch arrangement.

Lucas Steele opened the program singing “Grateful,” a song that suited his terrific range and acting power. Later, he sang a sad torch song, “Unexpressed”

Bucchino was inspired to write “Sweet Dreams” when he saw a boy and girl get off a bus with backpacks. The boy was leaving a rich protector in New York and the girl was leaving a married man in the South. Bucchino explained that when Judy Collins originally sang the song to his accompaniment he was so enthralled with her singing he forgot that he was playing for her. Julie Garnye, in from Los Angeles, did a heartbreaking version of “Sweet Dreams.” Later, Garnye sang an anthem “Better Than I.”

“It Feels Like Home” was originally sung by Ginger Prince, Hal Prince’s daughter, who was in the audience. That great song was tenderly sung by Liz Callaway. A strange patter song, “A Powerful Man” with its tongue twisting lyrics, was cleverly sung and animatedly acted by Michael McCorry Rose. Broadway star Anne Runolffson sang a sad breakup song “Temporary” and another song about a marriage breakup “Sepia Life.” Haley Bond sang a song that was in a show written at the last minute for Patti LuPone who did it on the album entitled “Dancing.”  She also sang a song sung by Ann Hampton Calloway on the album, the delightful “The Song with the Violins,” a memory song.

“If I Ever Say I’m Over You,“ the song that Art Garfunkel insisted no one else sing but him on the album, was vividly sung by Tom Wopat (who starred in Bucchino’s “A Catered Affair.”)

Scott Coulter who was the one who had the idea for the concert and convinced Bucchino to do it, sang the tender and sad “In A Restaurant By the Sea,” which I first heard Deborah Voght sing at the beautiful Allen Room at Lincoln Center. It’s the sad story of a meeting in a restaurant and an impossible love affair.

Bucchino himself sang from the piano the wry “Not A Cloud in the Sky.” Throughout the program Bucchino told of his great friendship with Michael Feinstein who introduced him to so many of the artists. They first met when they competed in a Liberace sponsored contest and both lost to a Russian classical pianist.

It was a very touching evening.

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