On Tuesday, October 4th at 8:00 PM, Kathleen France brought her one-woman-tour de force extravaganza, “La Bella Vita” to the Iridium. With an eight-piece band to warm up the crowd, then appearing on stage in a skin tight, sparkling evening dress, sporting a smile as gorgeous and infectiously heart warming as her voice, France entranced the audience from the first bar of Bob Merrill’s Mambo Italiano to her to her twenty-fourth selection, Buona Sera by Louis Prima.
The program,comprised of popular songs made famous by Italian/Italian American singers and/ or with Italian themes, was expertly crafted by Emmy Award nominee and MAC Award winner France and her director Tanya Moberly. I overheard a nearby table of people say that the sole purpose of the show was to create an audition film for employment on cruise ships. If that is indeed the case, I can report definitively that France’s mission is more than accomplished, and here’s why:
France brilliantly weaves personal anecdotes into a tight, universally appealing show, making it authentic to her and personal to anyone who loves this genre of music. And face it, everybody loves this genre of music. The evening was a recipe for success, as the audience celebrated the hit songs, laughed at France’s stories and marveled at her vocal versatility. Highlights of the show included Bobby Darin’s arrangement of Dream Lover paired with Connie Francis’ arrangement of Your Don’t Have to Say Love. France’s rich alto would soar into an off-the-staff belt with ease. Further, as she shifted into The Prayer (David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis), her legit soprano stayed steady and even as she delivered the lyric in flawless Italian. One part pin-up girl, one part Lucille Ball goofy chick and all parts powerhouse vocalist, Kathleen France makes entertaining look easy.
So, how does an Irish Girl from Fort Collins, Colorado end up presenting an ambitious, Italian- themed program of hit songs at a posh Manhattan Club, backed up by an eight piece band? She does it by hiring Ian Herman as her Director of Music, and the stellar instrumentalists Sean Harkness (Guitar), Tom Hubbard (Bass), Dave Silliman (Drums), Jon Menges (Trumpet), Mark Miller (Trombone), Jeff Schiller (Alto Sax, Flute 1) and Jeff Nichols (tenor Sax, Flute2 Clarinet). Then she chooses MAC Award winner Tanya Moberly to direct and guide her through the complex and elegant musical choices. Finally, she puts every bit of her divine intelligence , talent and, yes, adorable persona into the act.
If “La Bella Vita” travels to the open water, well, cruise ship audiences all over the globe will be entertained and moved by Kathleen France’s singing prowess and generous spirit. For the rest of us on land, we hope she brings it back again and again.