by Joe Regan Jr.
There was yet another terrific show in the Winter Rhythms 2015 series Friday night December 4 when the honorees were the song writing team of Ron Abel and Chuck Steffan entitled “Until Now…” Abel’s first job in New York City years ago was in the pit of Godspell on Broadway and he has continued to work for the past several years as composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor and musical director for such artists as Jessye Norman, Taylor Dayne, Liza Minnelli, Lucie Arnaz, Shirley Jones, among many others. Steffan has written lyrics for “Bricktop,” “”Re-Introducing Laurette Bishop,” and a musical version of “To Sir, With Love.” Raissa Katona-Bennett, Klea Blackhurst, Andrea Frierson, Valarie Pettiford, and Ty Stephens were the Broadway performers selected to sing their songs this night. They are all superb singers with great dramatic chops and dance movements.
Abel first appeared on stage alone at the piano and rocked with his song “From Up Here.“ Katona-Bennett introduced Steffan. She met them when she sang back up vocals on a Lucie Arnaz album entitled “Until Then.” Abel produced Katona-Bennett’s CD and she included a song of theirs on it.
The first artist was Pettiford who danced up a storm as she sang “Let ‘Em Talk,”an energetic number. Pettiford was a Tony nominee for “Fosse” and is currently on NBC TV’s “Blacklist.”
Abel met Ty Stephens at a benefit in California and Stephens sang a sensuous sexy “Slow Dancing,” with graceful movements. Katona-Bennett sang, a love song entitled “That’s My Joe,” which her husband, Dr. Garrett Bennett thought she was singing about him, but the punch line indicated it was about one of their four footed pets!
Frierson is currently appearing in “Me and Ella,“ (an Ella Fitzgerald show) and sang a sad blues entitled “Same Old Moon.”
Abels and Steffan’s next project is based on the cartoon character and TV series starring Shirley Booth, the first major theater and movie icon to star in a TV series. Their chosen star is Blackhurst. Blackhurst sang a miracle type song about Hazel finally meeting a man who is interested in her romantically, “He Just Happened To Me.” Hazel – A Musical Maid in America will open at the Drury Lane in Chicago this spring with a book by Lisa Levin.
After more songs performed by Frierson and Pettiford, Katona-Bennett returned to sing the song that was on her CD, “Westbound Train,” a moody song about a woman at a bus station leaving her parents to go West to try and find her cowboy lover. Katona-Bennett gave a dramatic one act play performance of this great song.
To bring the evening to a big finish, Stevens did a big Gospel song entitled “Show Me” and Blackhurst finished the show with the song for which she sang backup on Arnaz’s album, the Latin swing number “Until Now” with lots of trills all up and down her range!
It was revealed that it was Steffan’s birthday and also the anniversary of Abel and Steffan’s partnership and everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” to celebrate the occasion.
Winter Rhythms 2015 is a benefit for Urban Stages Outreach bringing performers to schools, hospitals, and children’s groups and continues at Urban Stages for the next two weeks. Go to urbanstages.org and use ticket code WR20 for a discount to see any of the future show for only $20.00 Photos: Maryann Lopinto