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A Styne Romance

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Bruce Kimmel’s 82nd cabaret performance was a joyous tribute to composer Jule Styne. The felicitously titled A Styne Romance, apologies to Dorothy Fields, featured songs from Styne’s work on Broadway shows as well as his Hollywood films. With a career spanning more than 40 years, Styne’s musical longevity remains astounding. Granted, the later shows weren’t as successful, either commercially or artistically, but they all contain musical gems.

A Styne RomanceSarah Uriarte Berry started the evening with a roof-raising rendition of Gypsy’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” A former Julie Jordan in Carousel, Berry attacked the song with an impressive Merman-styled belt. But she also managed to bring the volume down for some emotional insights. Berry bookended the show with Styne’s other driving first act finale, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl. In between, she shared her gentler side with a wistful “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan.

 

Nick Tubbs is a personable young man with an effortless crooner’s style put to good use on the Academy Award-winning “Three Coins in the Fountain” and Styne’s hit song from Do Re Mi, “Make Someone Happy.” He returned later in the evening to deliver one of the concert’s true rarities, “I, Yes Me, That’s Who” from Styne’s flop Broadway version of the Hollywood hit, Lillies of the Field. While perfectly pleasant, it didn’t kindle thoughts that the show was a misunderstood masterpiece.

The comic spark was nicely provided by Keri Safran. She got the laughs in the lyrics for “Is it a Crime?” and even updated the piece with an appearance from her mobile phone. It was a feat made even more impressive by the fact the song was crafted so specifically to the unique talents of Judy Holliday. One wonders what she might have done with one of Lorelei’s comically suggestive numbers from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Or how she’d cut loose on Darling of the Day’sNot on Your Nellie.” She did return to transform “A Ride on a Rainbow” into a hilarious parody of love songs.

Roger Befeler had fun with his side- by- side comparison of “I’m in the Mood for Happiness” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me.” The first is a number from a one-night live television version of Ruggles of Red Gap, the tune of which was recycled into the second song for many more hearings in Gypsy. He returned singing Jeffrey Moss’ songs from Bells are Ringing in the one slight musical hiccup in the show. While Befeler handled both songs nicely, “I Met a Girl” and “Long Before I Knew You” are so different in attack and energy that the transition felt abrupt, needing a few more bars to smooth it out.

As always, the mysterious Guy Haines was conspicuous by his absence, forcing Bruce Kimmel to step in and sing Hazel Flagg’sEvery Street’s a Boulevard in Old New York.” Alby Potts’ clever use of the vamp from a later, more famous New York song reminded us that this number provided a clear blueprint for Kander & Ebb. Talented teen Mackenzie Wrap showed impressive range with a sweet rendition of Gypsy’s “Little Lamb,” compete with a Lambchop sock puppet, and a brassy “Usher From the Mezzanine” from Fade Out/Fade In.

Kim Huber works consistently, and this concert was a perfect way to see why. stripped of the help offered by sets, costumes, lighting, makeup, and a full orchestra, Huber easily commands the stage and compels her audience. She is a stylish singer with a bone-deep understanding of her lyrics. She brought depth and growing sense of wonderment to one of Styne’s best film songs, “Time After Time.” Introducing most of the audience to a cut song from Funny Girl called “Absent Minded Me,” Huber made a strong case for the song and, without doing an impression, revealed how Styne was crafting his melodies around Barbra Streisand’s unique instrument. She then unfurled a passionate reading of Styne’s hit from the show, “People.”

Alby Potts ably accompanied the performers with an empathetic ear to their performances. Next month’s Kritzerland show will be a holiday event.

 

Upstairs at The Federal    November 5, 2017

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.