Friday, August 21, 2009

review - Making Good @ The Ford Amphitheatre

This last in the series of Wicked Summer Nights concerts
was undoubtedly the best. It boasted the introduction on the West Coast of Stephen Schwartz's new opera Seance on a Wet Afternoon, narrated by Schwartz and sung magnificently by Lauren Flanigan and company. Act II was a fitting celebration of Schwartz's past works with a lineup of very exciting, and mostly fresh, lesser known talents.

Act I, selections from the opera

I am not an expert in the world of opera, but Seance is hauntingly beautiful. Based on the 60s film of the same name that brought Kim Stanley to international attention as one of our finest actresses, the various emotions of greed, desperation, fear, hope and love are all evocatively expressed in operatic form by Schwartz, in his first opera. Master artists Flanigan as Myra (Stanley's film role), Steve Pence as her husband Billy, Aaron Refvem as 11 year-old deceased son Arthur, Michael Marcotte, and Hila Plitmann and John Kimberling as the despairing parents of the kidnapped little girl Adriana were all outstanding.

Act II, the concert

As with Pippin, this was magical with an abundance of starry performances. Highlights included the sensational Valarie Pettiford, essaying "Magic To Do" with finesse and fine Fosseesque flair, Elizabeth Brackenbury delightfully drole with "It's An Art" (Working), to my mind one of Schwartz's most clever songs, "All For the Best" (Godspell) with Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Barrett Foa in top form, Michael Arden in a surprising turn with "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" (Pippin), usually sung by a woman, Nicole Parker with a soaring "West End Avenue" (The Magic Show), another favorite of mine, a sumptuous duet by Lauren Flanigan and Terrence Mann on "Wanting" (Rags), "In Whatever Time We Have" (Children of Eden) with solid vocals by Jenna Leigh Green and Michael Marcotte, a dynamic "Proud Lady" by dashing David Burnham and a lovely "Meadowlark" by Tammi Tappan Damiano. Schwartz performed the finale at the piano "For Good" (Wicked). Instead of thanking everyone in words, he did what a composer does best, he sang a composition that shows the deep warmth an artist has for his endearing public. It left me in tears.

A terrific, unforgettable evening directed by Billy Porter, with musical direction by Chris Bratten and executive produced by Upright Cabaret's Chris Isaacson and Shane Scheel!

Now we can look forward to the new Upright Cabaret that opens August 29 in its new locale at 1714 Vermont Street in Hollywood.

Call 310-652-5252 for tix or visit:


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