The Prince and the Showtune: A Tribute to Harold Prince
On March 3, Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal, the incomparable North Hollywood supper club, offered its latest cabaret show produced by veteran impresario Bruce Kimmel of Kritzerland Records and his associate, Adryan Russ. A capacity crowd enjoyed delectable cuisine and stellar musical entertainment, featuring an extraordinary cast of singer-actors.
Those who recall the vintage Marilyn Monroe-Lawrence Olivier film comedy "The Prince and the Showgirl" should get a kick out of the clever title of Kimmel and Russ’ new revue, "The Prince and the Showtune: A Tribute to Harold Prince."
This titular Prince is the royally talented Broadway producer-director whose roster of hits reads like a chronicle of the most glorious musical theater achievements during more than a half-century of Broadway history: "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Pajama Game," "Cabaret," "Parade" and "Damn Yankees," to name but a few highlights, as well as some of the most memorable gems from Stephen Sondheim and the John Kander/Fred Ebb duo, and more.
Among emcee Kimmel’s funny and informative between-songs patter, he pointed out that Prince’s brief career as a film director didn’t quite set the world afire. (The works include a misfired 1977 screen incarnation of Sondheim’s ’A Little Night Music" and a 1970 Angela Lansbury-Michael York comedy called "Something for Everyone," which Kimmel quipped was essentially "nothing for anyone.") Yet a creative artist who brought so many Tony-winning masterworks to the stage owes no apologies to the annals of showbiz.
Kimmel and Russ assembled a remarkable mix of veteran and blooming L.A.-based musical theater talents. The seven performers brought vitality and class to an array of showstoppers. A special treat was an appearance by peerless luminary Terri White, who belted and tapped her way through an electrifying rendition of "Who’s That Woman?," which she performed in the most recent Broadway revival and local Ahmanson theater engagement of Sondheim’s "Follies." The number, which is a group effort in the musical, worked spectacularly as a solo opportunity for White to dazzle the crowd with her incandescent talent.
Musical director/piano accompanist Richard Berent elicited superb results throughout. Kimmel, a spry song-and-dance man as well as a renowned music producer, shared the first number of the evening with irresistible young performer Jenna Lea Rosen -- "Two Lost Souls" (from "Damn Yankees"), which was performed in the film version by the magnificent Gwen Verdon and hunky Tab Hunter in his prime.
Vivacious Rosen -- who gets better each time we see her perform -- also gave a delightfully fresh interpretation of "The Glamorous Life," a song from "A Little Night Music" that Sondheim expanded in the film version. And she belted with unbridled gusto in the electrifying "Life Is" number from Kander and Ebb’s brilliant but rarely revived "Zorba."
Golden-voiced Josh Grisetti, who boasts many impressive accomplishments in stage, film, and TV and is well remembered for his lead performance locally in Reprise’s "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" in 2010, soared in two powerful ballads-Cy Coleman’s "I Rise Again" (from "On the 20th Century") and Sondheim’s majestic ’Being Alive" from "Company."
Baritone supreme Robert Yacko excelled in a wide range of numbers. He paired Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ liltingly romantic "Hey There" (from "Damn Yankees") with Sondheim’s ravishing "Not a Day Goes By" (from "Merrily We Roll Along"). He hit a home run with another romantic number, "Why Should I Wake Up?" from "Cabaret," a song that was unfortunately among those not included in the film adaptation, as Kimmel pointed out. Yacko was equally marvelous in "Pretty Women" from "Sweeney Todd."
Splendid soprano Jean Louisa Kelly savored two evergreen songs from the cult favorite "She Loves Me" (scored by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick of "Fiddler on the Roof" fame). She was resplendent in this show’s poignant "Dear Friend" and the delicious "Vanilla Ice Cream." She superbly interpreted the melancholy "Not While I’m Around" from Sweeney Todd.
Two talented blondes had their moments in the spotlight. Sami Staitman sparkled in the wonderful "Don’t Tell Mama" from "Cabaret," with clever lyric adjustments befitting the Sterling cabaret room. She also found the sparkle and flirtatious fun in "You’ve Got Possibilities," which was first sung by Linda Lavin in the campy 1966 cult favorite "It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman." "Spiderman," eat your heart out.
Ashley Fox-Linton excelled in a little-known Kander tune(written prior to his works with Ebb), "There’s a Room in My House," which she paired with another K&E tune "A Quiet Thing" from the early Liza Minnelli vehicle, "Flora the Red Menace." She switched gears magnificently for Sondheim’s ironically bittersweet "Another Hundred People" from "Company." Her singing matched the title of the song in the satiric "Lovely" (from Sondheim’s "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum").
Kelly delivered the evening’s spectacular finale, a dynamic rendition of Kander and Ebb’s "Cabaret" title song. Kimmel and Russ joined the cast onstage for a fun-filled encore number: the joyous "Heart" from "Damn Yankees."
"The Prince and the Showtune: A Tribute to Harold Prince" was performed on March 3 at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. For information and tickets on future Sterling’s Upstairs shows, call 818-754-8700 or visit www.msapr.net/Sterling-s-at-The-Federal.html