The preview of the magnificent things to come happens when Brian Stokes Mitchell sings the first song of his current show at Feinstein’s/54 Below. It’s the Irving Berlin classic “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. I’m sure if Berlin ever heard the Stokes version he would bow down in tribute to the thrilling performance and unique revisit that the Tony Award Winner and consummate artist has brought to his 1954 tune written for Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun. Stokes navigates the innovative Tedd Firth arrangement and makes you feel excited, awestruck, and comfortable as his rich baritone voice effortlessly glides through the constant time signature 4/4,7/4,5/4,2/2,3/4 and 4 key changes. This current show at 54 is titled Brian Stokes Mitchell Plays With Music-Holiday and Stokes brings his acting, musicianship, and charismatic personality
to make every tune on his song list a moving experience. The New York Times has dubbed Brian Stokes Mitchell as Broadway’s “Last Leading Man” but Stokes is even much more than that. He’s Chairman of the Board of The Actors Fund. He has a unique ability to bring people together and that theme is constant throughout his show. His encore at this performance was “What A Wonderful World” and the SRO audience left feeling that way mainly because Brian Stokes Mitchell is in it.
As kids (or grownups) it’s fun imagining yourself as somebody else. For me the perfect person to be is Stokes.
Here are his words at a recent Actors Fund Meeting:
“’May you live in interesting times’. This ancient saying has been considered by some to be a curse. It can also be viewed as a blessing – especially so for those of us who pursue a career in the Arts.
Challenging situations and challenging times are an artist’s best fuel, an artist’s best inspiration.
We are presently living within the strong reverberations of a political season that did little to help these United States feel united. This is the time for the difficult work. This is the time for the challenging and healing work of artists and the arts.
Members of the arts community are incredibly diverse. We are male and female…black and white…rich and poor…gay and straight…city-dwellers and country-dwellers…Democrats and Republicans…Christians and Muslims and Jews and Atheists…
What the disparate members of the arts community have in common is that we strive to see the world through new and different eyes. To be observant of our connections and our disconnections, our unity and division as individuals and as a larger collective.
It is probably safe to say that most artists on the path also share a conscious attention to not lose that fragile partner that is often the first casualty of our perceived division: Our empathy.”
(Complete photos on this show on Broadwayworld.com)