On Stage at the Opera House, Kennedy Center: A Time to Sing – An Evening with Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams. Photo by Scott Suchman.
In front of a small (very fortunate) socially distranced audience, with the beautifully highlighted red backdrop of one of the Kennedy Center‘s most iconic stages, two of America’s most cherished and celebrated vocalists of the stage joined together, six feet apart, to launch the innovative On Stage at the Opera Houseseries. Designed to safely usher back into our hearts the joy of performing live, Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams gifted us all with just The Right Stuff, a concoction of rapturous vocal engagement and musical fun at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Streamed last night, it was the first in-the-moment live performance in front of an audience on this famed stage in over six months, and it was a shot of pure pleasure to embrace these two gifted performers and what they brought to the table. The configuration of the stage was basically ‘theatre in reverse’ (something that The Old Vic In Camera has been doing extraordinary well these last few months), re-imagined the visual by placing the two artists on a 30 x 24-foot stage extension built over the orchestra-level seating area, with 40 lucky souls invited to set in physically-distanced pairs of the famed stage. The iconic red interior of the hall floated stunningly out behind, reminding us all the healing power of the performing arts and the resilience and hope needed by us all as we move forward into an unknown but hopeful future.
The concert, A Time to Sing: An Evening with Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams, showcased the two obvious friends’ strong vocal skills, exploring, diving in, and relishing a collection of very well chosen personal songs that solidly connected to their long exemplary careers. With solid music direction by Rob Mathes (Broadway’s The Last Ship) and under the watchful eye of producer/director Elizabeth Curtis, the musical evening floated effortlessly on a cloud of good-natured friendship and alliance, gracing us all with their vocal talent. Envisioned together over a few glasses of wine on a Zoom call, Fleming and Williams ventured forth most lovingly, singing numerous duets and solos ranging from the eclectic opening number, “Fragile” by Sting, to Stephen Sondheim’s classic and glorious “No One is Alone”/”Children Will Listen“. Their talent was on full and obvious display, even within the somewhat sillier, yet charming and fun new song written specially for this concert by Tony Award nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party).
Vanessa Williams, a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award nominee who has appeared most memorably a number of times on the Broadway stage (including the Tony/Drama Desk Award-winning revival production of Into the Woods), has, in my mind, the most connecting voice of the two. I was, back before the darkening of theatre worldwide, eagerly looking forward to seeing her in the London West End Production of City of Angels at the Garrick Theatre (I had tickets for March 16, 2020), but it shut down before I had the chance to even board my cancelled flight. But last night on the Kennedy Opera House Stage, she shimmered and dazzled, particularly when she showcased her velvety voice singing Lena Horne’s classic, “Stormy Weather” (Music: Harold Arlen; Lyrics: Ted Koehler), along with her timeless signature hit, “Save the Best for Last” (Music/Lyrics: Wendy Waldman, Phil Galdston, Jon Lind), that glided out into the rafters as beautifully as it did when first released in 1992. Her “On the Other Side of the Tracks” (Music: Cy Coleman; Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh) and “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough” (Music: Julie Styne; Lyrics: Betty Comden, Adolph Green), with that powerful and very current personal introduction, wafted out into the air, bringing deeper meaning and glory to an already wonderful evening.
Renée Fleming, a world renowned operatic soprano, brought her pitch perfect sound and elegance to the forefront. She radiated warmth and care, even during the somewhat cliche in-between song chatter (that felt a bit too scripted to really pull us in). But her voice resonated, especially during her surprisingly compelling “Both Sides Now“, an iconic song written by Joni Mitchell that I never would have imagined fitting her so neatly. Not so surprising, her delivery of “Song to the Moon“, a pure piece of writing from the lyric fairy tale opera, Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák with a libretto by the Czech poet Jaroslav Kvapil (with accompanist Rob Ainsley), fit her voice as perfectly and stunningly as one could imagine. She bravely sang “So Big, So Small“, one of the most touching songs from Dear Evan Hansen, and even though she didn’t find the heartbreaking core of the song like Rachel Bay Jones did nightly on the Broadway stage, she proved her crystal clear ability to find the pain inside, while also shining a strong light on the aching beauty of the writing (Music/Lyrics: Benj Pasek, Justin Paul). But it was her closing number, the iconic “Over the Rainbow” that cemented the importance of the night, and the gloriousness of a stellar live performance. The song, and the whole evening, worked its magic on us all. These two deserved wild enthusiastic applause from a packed auditorium, even though it was limited to the forty that sat on stage. But I hope they could feel our love and heart felt joy through the airwaves. That was loud and rapturous, for them, and the return of live performances at the Kennedy Center. Fingers crossed for more.
Watch the exclusive live performance filmed from the Opera House stage by downloading. Your payment of $15 gives you digital access through 2020. Audiences will also be able to experience future On Stage at the Opera House performances in-person at the Kennedy Center with select concerts to be live streamed. Tickets for this and future
performances are now on-sale via the Kennedy Center website or by calling (202) 467-4600 or
October 2: Musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra
October 8: Jazz Gallery All-Stars
October 20:the Dover Quartet and the Escher Quartet
October 30: Musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra
Additional artists and dates will be announced at a later time.
For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Santino Fontana Brings Voice, Comedy and Showmanship To 54 Below
Tony Award® winner Santino Fontana brings his tremendous talent to 54 Below and it is a show that wraps you up in his humor, charm, vocal prowess, laid back demeanor, jeopardy style musical choices and over all entertaining. By the end of the show you feel as if you know him or at least a part of him. Starting off with Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’s “Stick Around,” the night turned into a Russian roulette of material. The audience picked numbers and as Santino put it “if you don’t like the show, it’s your fault.” First up for my show was the naughty but amusing “Making Love Alone” followed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella‘s “Do I Love You,” which made for an amusing combination of songs. During Cinderella Mr. Fontana had shoes that were built up 2 inches inside and 2 inches outside, which cause a tremendous amount of pain, so the song told the story of his plight, which made the song take on a much different meaning. Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle,” was sung for a Carol Burnett tribute, that luckily we were treated to.
His guest for the evening was Sarah Steele (“The Good Wife,” The Humans, The Country House) who sang “out There On My Own” from Fame. On the 14th it will be Greg Hildreth (Company, Disney’s Frozen, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella). Click on the name and you can hear that version.
Showing off his baritone side with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You.” We almost got to see Santino in Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields”s Sweet Charity, instead we got hint of what that would be like with “Too Many Tomorrows.” A hilarious version of “I feel Pretty” from West Side Story lightened the mood and had the room in tears. Recreating his duet “Love Is An Open Door” from Frozen, Santino channeled Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie. Again the room was laughing with the sheer comedic genius that won Mr. Fontana a Tony Award. Bringing the energy to a calmer state was the emotional Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To?”
Vocally the most impressive song of the night was “Joey, Joey, Joey” from Most Happy Fellow. Mr. Fontana’s voice was glorious in the tones and the subtle texturing. Keeping in the ballad mode and honoring Marilyn Bergman he launched into the iconic “Where Do You Start,”while accompany himself on the piano, which was highly impressive. Back to the uptempo mode “I Met A Girl” from Bells Are Ringing, was given a rigorous, amusing take. This was his original audition song. Lerner and Loewe’s “How to Handle a Woman,” from the recent Camelot, showed how Santino would have made an excellent King Arthur.
Another favorite moment of the night was “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies. Already a personal favorite, this made me want to see Santino play this role at a later date, though personally I would cast him as Ben.
For the finale songs “The Music In You” from Cinderella, told how he and the cast loved watching the magnificent Victoria Clark perform. “This Can’t Be Love” from 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse, ended up in an encore, of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’s “They Were You” from The Fantasticks, which made my guest producer Pat Addiss extremely happy.
Santino was backed by his musical director and accompanist Cody Owen Stine, who played flawlessly.
Santino Fontana opened September 10th at 54 Below and you can still catch this marvelous show tonight September 14th. 54below.com
This is a do not miss!
Talking With Mauricio Martínez About His New Show 5’11, Based in NYC and More
I met Emmy Award winner Mauricio Martínez when he was performing in Children of Salt and have watched him ever since. He then became known for the Broadway musical On Your Feet!, but before that he appeared in the Emmy Winning TV Show El Vato NBC, the hit Señora Acero Telemundo and several Mexican telenovela. T2C talked to this prolific actor/ singer to learn more.
His new show at 54 Below talks about all the self-tape sides filling up his Dropbox. In his new show, 5’11, Based in NYC, Mauricio is putting those to good use in a musical “What If…,” sorting through what might have been. Pushing aside the ring light, you will lean more about this uber talented Mexican American.
His show on October 5 and 6 at 7pm is at 54 Below. The show feature Linedy Genao (Bad Cinderella, On Your Feet!) and Alexis Michelle (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) and is written by Mauricio Martínez & Robbie Rozelle, with musical direction and arrangements by Brian J. Nash. Directed by Robbie Rozelle.
Video by Magda Katz
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Linda Purl Not Just An Actress
Last night Linda Purl took the audience at The Green Room 42 on a magical journey.
In 2020 Linda Purl starred as Ryan Spahn mother in Vivian Neuwirth’s Mr. Toole at 59E59 Theaters.
Ms Purl just released her fourth album of standards, This Could Be the Start. If the CD is anything like the concert this s a must have,
Linda Purl Had The Room In Her Hand at The Green Room 42
You know Linda Purl, for her work on Movies of the Week, Happy Days, The Bold and the Beautiful, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, The Office and more. Recently she released her fourth album of standards, This Could Be the Start, and she celebrated its debut with a special concert Monday, September 11th at The Green Room 42.
Standards such as “This Could Be The Start,” I’ve Gotta Lot of Living,””Shall We Dance,” “Caravan,“Blue Moon,” “Let’s Get Lost,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Here’s To Life” and more were given a sultry, laid back, come hither approach. You can tell Ms. Purl is an actress first, as these song, all told stories that wrapped you in their spell. The lyrics become front and center, but are thrown away with a knowing that surpasses time. Part of the magic is the alternating rhythms to the originals that make these versions stand out and draw you in.
Part of this intoxication is her musical director Ted Firth, who is a musical genius. Purl has been working with him for 15 years. When ever I fall in love with an arrangement, inevitably it is always Ted Firth at the helm. Firth was on piano with David Finck on bass and Ray Marchica on drums. Purl smartly uses the best of the best.
During Ms. Purl’s patter we learned about her love of hiking, she hails from Colorado, her partner, Patrick Duffy, and their sourdough starter company, as well as painting old trees with paint and glitter.
Purl knows how to keep her audience in the palm of her hand and wanting more. She is warm, engaging and a song stylist, that will keep you coming back for more.
All photo’s and video are Magda Katz
Daisy Jopling and Frank Shiner Raise Money To Give Kids The Gift 0f Music
Classical/rock violinist Daisy Jopling, vocalist Frank Shiner and her fabulous band performed at Chelsea Table + Stage Saturday, September 9 at 9:30 PM. The duo perform an eclectic mix of music from blues and standards to classical. The magical band that accompanied them included Ray DeTone on guitar, Sofia Gould on saxophone, Jeff Miller on piano, Lavondo Thomas on bass and Dan Weiner on drums.
17 year old, Sofia Gould was a Daisy Jopling student and one of the reasons this foundation is so needed.
For a special treat 17 year old Melisa Muñoz played a mean trumpet.
Daisy tours the world with her own band, and also runs a music mentorship foundation.
The Daisy Jopling Foundation has given 6,810 children world class music performances for free.
4,500 hours of time volunteered.
1,000 residents given free tickets to our concerts.
920 children served in their mentoring programs.
Partnered with over 50 non-ройt organizations to.
transform their student’s lives.
Daisy was the first international violinist to perform a major concert at the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on November 4, 2022, collaborating with Egyptian stars Hany Adel, Wust El Balad and Noha Fekry.
Daisy started off by playing a concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 14, the opening of the Vienna Festival, 53 stunning concert halls in China, creating “Illuminance” on Bannerman Island, NY which aired on PBS in 2021 and 2022, and performing her own “Awakening” Concert at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center.
Frank Shiner released his debut album, The Real Me, in 2014, A second LP, Lonely Town, Lonely Street, he released on his own Bakerson Records label. He is now writing a musical about his dad, in which he debuted one of the songs.
They ending the concert with “Joy To The World.” This was a great night of raising funding for children and music.
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