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FROM MY SEAT IN THE HOUSE By: MARI LYN HENRY
Thanksgiving came early on Sunday evening November 3rd at 8:30 pm at Stage 72 (Triad Theater). A cornucopia of the best lyrics and music by Larry Kerchner was coupled with an A-list group of musicians and the crème de la crème of multiple award-winning singers and stylists from the worlds of Broadway and Cabaret. The event was a benefit for the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative which creates educational programs, produces national vocal competitions and brings the music of the Great American Songbook to young people and future generations.
Julia Goodwin, the winner of the 2013 Michael Feinstein high school competition and junior ambassador for the initiative sang Mr. Kerchner’s “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash” (Jimmy Durante’s signature phrase as he ended each episode of his popular television show) with verve, vocal technique and phrasing. She had a maturity in her voice that belied her young years. Add her name to the list of rising stars.
The “treasures” are hidden no more. Every song was a gem. The seasonal “Winter in Manhattan” was beautifully realized by the lovely voice of Karen Oberlin, 2013 recipient of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Donald F. Smith Award. Broadway star John Bolton (A Christmas Story, The Musical) opened the show with the appropriately titled “It’s The Opening Song!” The laughing out loud moments: Jeff Harnar’s precise articulation and comic timing in the extremely witty “What’s Your Phobia?” The multi award-winning fabulous Mark Nadler’s over-the-top, hysterical pitch for “A Jewish Christmas”.
Goosebump moments: Shana Farr, recipient of the 2012 Julie Wilson Award, singing the haunting “Somewhere in Time”; Stacy Sullivan’s heartbreaking interpretation of “Last Night”; Raissa Katona Bennett’s dedication to “Elizabeth of Long Ago.” The Salsa Moment with Hilary Kole’s “The Gypsy.” Echoes of the Nashville/Country sound with Erin Cronican’s feisty rendition of “Ring Ring!” and Colleen McHugh’s sensational “I Guess I’m Over You.” Novelty songs like “Unsquare Dance” was given its all by Laurel Masse. The evening rocked with the toe-tapping, handclapping swinging rhythms delivered with gusto by Amra-Faye Wright (Velma in Chicago) in “Nasty McJive,” T. Oliver Reid (currently in After Midnight) with “Home,” and the team of Terese Genecco and Dennis Chiccino belting out “Down at Mama Jones’” and “Uptown”. Then came the piece de resistance. The legendary Marilyn Maye effortlessly bringing to life an homage to “Sinatra”. Standing ovations and shouts of Bravo!
All of the arrangements were excellent with the violin virtuosity of Sara Caswell, Dan Gross on drums and percussion, Sean Harkness on guitar, Tom Hubbard on bass, John Gebhart, backup vocals, and on piano the exquisite musical director and accompanist Hubert “Tex” Arnold.
We give thanks there are so many talented people on this earth and that we were entertained by a select group of them. Congratulations are in order for Michael Feinstein, the musical gifts of Larry Kerchner and for Sandi Durell, producer extraordinaire for making this evening of song an enchanted one.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
Video: Magda Katz