Broadway Originals

Town Hall, NYC - Oct. 19, 2008

Reviewed by John Kenrick

For one sweet October afternoon, writer/producer Scott Siegel turned Town Hall into a rather sizeable time machine, taking more than a thousand lucky people back to enjoy some wonderful show tunes sung by the performers who introduced them to New York theatregoers over the past five decades. True, a few of the talented singers were from revival productions, but that did not diminish the delight -- in fact, it just broadened this concert's artistic palette.

Lucie Arnaz set things percolating, looking and sounding dazzling in "They're Playing My Song." Mame veteran Jerry Lanning floated the high notes of "My Best Girl" with élan, Terri White rocked the house with Barnum's "Thank God I'm Old," the always amazing Pamela Myers gave a fresh edge to Company's "Another Hundred People," and Jekyll & Hyde star Bob Cuccioli once again soared through the bombastic "This is the Moment." Tony winner Gary Beach offered a delicious, mind-twisting mélange of his showstoppers from The Producers, La Cage Aux Folles and Beauty and the Beast, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house as Rita Gardner of The Fantasticks delivered "They Were You" with flawless style and lush vocal beauty -- and this some 48 years after she first touched audiences on that show's opening night.

Some songs were far stronger removed from the context of their original productions. Chuck Cooper of Caroline or Change set his booing basso to work on the heartbreaking "Bus Aria," a bizarre number that he made work (here as in the show) through sheer vocal and acting prowess. That deft character actor Stephen Mo Hanan won giggles by carrying a bag of kitty litter on stage before offering his touching Tony nominated "Gus the Theatre Cat" from Cats. And while The Times They Are A-Changin' was a theatrical fiasco, Michael Arden once again offered his sweet and endearing take on "Don't Think Twice."

Away from the ill-fated songbook revue Look of Love, Liz Callaway's "Alfie" was downright thrilling. On the other hand, a simple concert presentation can put weak material in a merciless light. You would be hard pressed to find two finer singers than Alan Campbell and Alice Ripley, but their best efforts merely showed how meager Lloyd Webber's "Too Much In Love to Care" is outside of Sunset Boulevard.

Handsome Bobby Steggert reminded the audience why his rendition of "Little Red Hat" was a highlight of the recent revival of 110 in the Shade. Fans cheered when D'Jamin Bartlett took the time machine back to 1974 and delivered A Little Night Music's "The Miller's Son" with profound power, and beloved Broadway belter Karen Morrow once more blew everyone away with a rousing rendition of the title song to "I Had a Ball."

The only real downside to this Broadway Originals time machine was that it eventually left its audience back in the Times Square of 2008, where golden musical theatre moments are getting increasingly hard to find. No matter -- it was a grand few hours. And how could we tell all those folks streaming out of Broadway theatres that the best show in the neighborhood was really in Town Hall.

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