by Adam Cohen
There were only four instruments in glorious full bodied usage Saturday evening at Scott Siegel’s 17th Annual Broadway Unplugged concert at Merkin Hall. It’s a simple concept – Broadway stars singing with no amplification backed by the power of their voices, a pianist, bassist, and cello. In an over-amplified, auto-tuned, backing vocal tracked world – pure talent was fully on display and utilized to great, compelling, effect.
Seigel’s many concert series are hosted by him with a whimsical passion for the art and history of Broadway. He prepares bits of history on the shows, plots, and the performer’s background and delivers them in short snippets pre-song, setting the stage of discovery of charismatic selling of songs by an array of performers.
There truly is an art to the performance of a song un-miked. It means the performer must rely on the strength of their intelligence, wit, personality, and voice. Highlights of the evening was the charming, whimsical “Your Feet’s Too Big” delivered by Chuck Cooper, relishing his moment in the spotlight. Klea Blackhurst channeled Ethel Merman but powered it with her own persona and theatricality owning the song “Anything Goes” and the audience. And opera star/multiple Grammy winner, John Easterlin mightily delivered “Without a Song.”
Other delights included a mighty turn of “Maybe This Time” from Jillian Louis and a potent Kelli Barrett delivering “I Dreamed A Dream.”
Nuances get discovered anew in older or under appreciated material as brought forth from raw, full bodied voices. This was especially well wrought in Michael Winther’s tender “What King of Fool Am I” and Lisa Howard’s powerful “I Have Found.”
Each singer brought their most captivating turns and created a delightfully warm and fun evening. The evening ended with a group of master students – the Broadway by the Year Chorus taking a nice tour through “Lullaby of Broadway” with a chorus from the pros which also included Farah Alvin, Brian Charles Rooney, and Aaron Ramey.
These are winning performers who are take advantage of the ample, suppleness of their voices to deliver powerful, memorable turns of a wide array of songs. Bravo to Mr. Siegel for the history lesson and an evening that kept the audience on the edge of their seats to capture each note and sang-froid of these talented singers.
More information about the bevy of concerts Mr. Siegel produces is available at http://www.siegelpresents.com