Review by Joe Regan Jr.
Periodically since 2008 the extraordinarily talented Jonathan Whitton has performed, with his musical partner on guitar and piano, Aaron Jones, a solo show. Whitton won both the MAC and Bistro Awards in his debut show. He returned to Don’t Tell Mama on Sept. 18th and played to a sold out house of fans, friends, and family (his mother was present). Some of the numbers were from the show I first saw in 2012, but there was new material and new attacks on some of the numbers.
Whitton, a high tenor, with lean, animated body language, gives off an androgynous look which works on several numbers where he does not change the gender lyrics. He opened with one of his most famous numbers, “Lazy Afternoon.” and it sizzled with sensuality (he got a big laugh on the lyric “I’ve got a lovely pitcher of tea,”) then without pause rocked into “Gimme More” and “Toxic” before settling into a sublime “Lilac Wine.”
Aaron Jones took center mic for a song he wrote that morning entitled “In the Worst Way,” a brutal love song. He flubbed some of the lyrics but recovered and repeated it perfectly, commenting was a “metaphor” song.
The duo gave all out dramatic performances of “Trance Manual” (John Vanderslice) and “This Magic Moment” (Mort Shuman/Doc Pomus.)
One of the most striking and musically stunning performances was Whitton’s dramatic “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” (Styne/Cahn). He sang the seldom sung verse about the Statue of Liberty, and then the familiar lyrics with a heart-breaking finish that modulated from his high notes to hushed low tones. It ranks with “Lazy Afternoon’ as definitive interpretations.
Some of the funniest moments in the act were Patti Griffin’s “Making Pies,” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Dinner at Eight.”
And, again, there was a fierce, angry version of “Is That All There Is” quite different from Peggy Lee’s classic. Emotionally, it was all out acted and ultimately had a startling impact.
For their encore, Whitton and Jones reprised Kate McGonagle’s “Saratoga Summer Song.”
It may be an exhausting experience to see Whitton and Jones in this act but it is a show that every actor and singer should see. Whitton’s face is flawlessly unlined and his physical presence is at his peak. www.donttellmamanyc.com