Review By Joel Benjamin
Merkin Hall’s Broadway Close Up’s Hallelujah Broadway! on November 17th concentrated on theater songs dealing with religion and spirituality. The results, especially as guided by genial and knowledgeable host, Sean Hartley, were far from pious—with the exception of the tongue-in-cheek processional “Preludium, Morning Prayer & Alleluia” (Rodgers & Hammerstein) from The Sound of Music with the cast done up in faux habits.
Cynical religion was humorously represented in several songs. “Blow Gabriel, Blow” (Cole Porter) was sung by Barbara Walsh with a trumpet solo by a young prodigy, Miles Hilger LeDonne. Although Ms. Walsh is not a belter she put the song across as did Clarke Thorell the over-the-top sermon, “The King of Sin” (Alan Menken & Glen Slater) from Leap of Faith. Another funny preacher man was Darius De Haas as Purlie singing “Newfangled Peacher Man” (Gary Geld & Peter Udell). Mr. De Haas’s high notes were a bit frayed on this occasion, but, extraordinary professional that he is, he still hit them in this number and in a slightly anemic “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” (Loesser) and a sweetly sung “All Good Gifts” (Schwartz) from Godspell. His acting was first rate.
Sally Wilfert, a woman with many-faceted vocal talents, sang the heartbreaking “How Glory Goes” (Adam Guettel) from Floyd Collins and the ever-hopeful “Infinite Joy” (William Finn) from Elegies, her eyes wide with wonder. She performed the Lane/Harburg classic “The Begat” as a sexy chanteuse (backed by the fledgling young male ensemble) and the uplifting “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Rodgers & Hammerstein), affectingly joining vocal forces with Barbara Walsh and the rest of the cast.
Mr. Thorell might have been a bit more lip-smacking, lascivious in his “Those Were the Good Old Days” (Richard Adler & Jerry Ross), the Devil’s funny homage to everything evil. He gave a robust, but sweet, interpretation of “The Highest Judge of All” from Carousel.
Young leading man Kevin Massey caught the nervous youthfulness of “Miracle of Miracles” (Bock & Harnick) and made good use of his high tessitura in a honky-tonk interpretation of the Gershwins’ “Stairway to Paradise,” showing off his easy going movements. He joined Messrs. De Haas and Thorell in “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess, using some rarely heard lyrics. The three guys gave the song a refreshingly offhand feel.
The program ended with a rousing “Brotherhood of Man” (Loesser) by the entire cast which included eight young hopefuls: Kimberly Chatterjee, Carver Duncan, Daniel Lynn Evans, Celeste Hudson, Adam Hyndman, Loulu Luzi, Dara Orland and Sam Tanabe.
Greg Pliska, on piano, led Daniel S. Acquisto on percussion and Nate Brown on guitar. Terri Bush provided the simple but evocative costumes and Devanand Janki the equally simple choreography.
The next Broadway Close Up on December 8th & 10th honoring the songs of the prolific composer, Jule Styne.
Broadway Close Up – Hallelujah, Broadway!
November 17, 2014
Merkin Concert Hall
129 West 67th St. (between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.)
New York, NY
Tickets & Information: 212-501-3330 or www.KaufmanMusiCenter.org/MCH