by Alix Cohen
“Think of me as your spirit guide for tonight…” begins host Deborah Grace Winer. “The world was always chaotic-enter magic…” ‘An intriguing premise.
Jenn Gambatese, Sydney James Harcourt, Matthew Scott, and Linda Purl open with a tandem “Pure Imagination”/ “I’m Flying.” (Leslie Bricusse – Charlie and The Chocolate Factory; Moose Charlap/ Carolyn Leigh- Peter Pan). Material from theater and songbook mostly fit the bill, though Winer’s bridging patter is smarter and more amusing than her selections. Arrangements are pop, largely performed with the relentless volume and vehemence of 11:00 o’clock numbers, exaggerated expression and gesture held not at all in check by Director Mark Waldrop.
Jenn Gambatese’s rendition of “(Have I Stayed) Too Long at The Fair” (Billy Barnes) sincerely questions. Growing waltzy and more deeply concerned, it’s kept in check maintaining lyrical intention. The performer’s “Memory” (Andrew Lloyd Weber/Trevor Nunn/TS Eliot), rather less apt, arrives freshly poignant and finally awash in wonder rather than its usual cry- out mode.
Sydney James Harcourt has a fine instrument but appears self-conscious and disconnected from every lyric up till Stevie Wonder’s excellent “If It’s Magic,” the sole occasion on which the vocalist’s habit of soulfully kneading notes lends itself to the song. Matthew Scott’s best contribution is Paul Williams/ Kenneth Ascher’s “Rainbow Connection.” Low key and tender, his cottony tenor suits. Unfortunately he doesn’t look at all at the audience.
Linda Purl, a last minute replacement to the ailing Emily Skinner, sings a lovely “Some Other Time” (Betty Comden/Adolph Green), having nothing to do with anything but tonight’s arranger, and a heartfelt “Children Will Listen” (Stephen Sondheim.) Both are accompanied only by sensitive, balladic piano. A veteran vocalist, Purl knows when to restrain and to let fly.
The company’s gleefully rousing “Love Potion No. 9” (Mike Stoller/Jerry Lieber) helmed by Ray Marchica’s infectious percussion, is terrific fun.
Winer has presented more successful iterations of her worthy series.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto
Deborah Grace Winer presents The Classic American Songbook Series
Feeling Wicked: Magic & Enchantment & The American Songbook
Written & Directed by Deborah Grace Winer
Directed by Mark Waldrop
Bass-Dick Sarpola; Drums-Ray Marchica