Deborah Grace Winer was certainly on the right track last night as she hosted her latest creative musical adventure “New York: Big City Songbook” at the new Birdland Theater. Deborah is well known to New Yorkers for the imaginative and quality presentations she produced for the Lyrics & Lyricists Series at the 92Y, which she led for 9 seasons. It’s difficult to construct a show for New Yorkers about New York, we’ve seen it all…haven’t we? but this smart show with vocalists Klea Blackhurst, La Tanya Hall and Nicolas King (real New Yorkers because as Deborah pointed out they come from everywhere) offered a kaleidoscopic vision of life in the city.
Klea Blackhurst had all the energy of a New Yorker and brought you right down onto the Subway tracks as she sang Christine Lavin’s “Waiting For The B Train”. It had that typical Lavin theme that tugs at your heartstrings and then takes a humorous twist at the conclusion.
Klea is known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman. She starred int the world premiere production of Hazel at Drury Lane Oakbrook in Chicago and The Nutty Professor directed by Jerry Lewis with a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes which premiered in Nashville. Klea is also well known to New Yorkers as the witty host of on of the Cabaret Convention nights every year at Lincoln Center.
Stunning vocalist LaTanya Hall, who was in many of Deborah’s 92Y productions has worked with some of the world’s most celebrated artists including Diana Ross, Bobby McFerrin, Donald Fagen, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Michael Feinstein, Patti Labelle, and Harry Belafonte. Her TV credits include Blue Bloods, Law & Order, 100 Centre Street, and The Sopranos.
Jazz super singer Nicolas King has been performing professionally since he was 4 years old. He appeared in three Broadway productions (Beauty & The Beast, A thousand Clowns with Tom Selleck, and Carol Burnett’s Hollywood Arms directed by Hal Prince. Nicolas has won numerous awards including New York’s coveted Bistro Award for Outstanding Performer and is often paired with Jazz icon Mike Renzi his music director/pianist. They have a new album out “On Another Note”. Nicolas was Liza Minnelli’s opening act from 2002-2012 touring all over the country.
Deborah Grace Winer, author and leading expert on the classic American Songbook has successfully transplanted her concert shows to the Cabaret Stage and this three-evening celebration of New York City, combined her love of her hometown and the American songbook. It also brought together three of Birdland’s favorite performers.
Music director was the legendary John Oddo with the renowned Jay Leonhart on bass. Mark Waldrop (Radio City Music Hall, NEWSical) was Stage Director.
(Complete photos on Broadwayworld.com)