Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz aka Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) was a multifaceted dancer, choreographer, director, and producer who traversed classical ballet, Broadway, film and television. Our host, three time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall, suggests “besides creating visual magic, he also greatly influenced the songs and scores” of pieces on which he worked.
Tonight’s show aptly begins with “Gotta Dance” (Matt Doyle), “Something to Dance About” (Laura Osnes), “Papa, Won’t You Dance With Me?” (Beth Malone/ Aaron C. Finley) and “Shall We Dance?” (the company). The four vocalists offer selections from, in part, On the Town, Peter Pan (Robbins first solo foray into direction and choreography), The King and I, Bells Are Ringing, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story.
Matt Doyle has a fine, well controlled voice, imbuing each number with just enough character to put emotion across out of context. “Lucky to Be Me” is palpably thrilled. “Maria” is simply beautiful. Doyle appears possessed by waves of excitement and surprise, stepping into it, moving across the stage as if propelled. Every intonation of “Maria” arrives differently.
Laura Osnes connects with her audience inhabiting lyrics, clearly familiar with each source. A sighed “Neverland” is tender and fanciful. “It’s a Perfect Relationship” arrives a scene-in-one expertly crafted to every one of Ella Peterson’s shifting moods. “Far From the Home I Love” is tender and moving. The lovely vibrato-filled soprano we hear is that of an actress.
Though Beth Malone has powerful pipes, she doesn’t mine lyrics for feeling/situation. “I Can Cook Too” is stiff (yes, there are arm gestures). We miss the cabbie’s crass New Yawk delivery (not the accent, the attitude), there’s no swing and, most importantly, no plea to Malone’s rendition. Nor did I believe a word of “Hello Young Lovers” behind which one doesn’t sense deeply felt history.
Appearing on stage as if dressed without thought to occasion beside three immaculately attired performers, it’s difficult to take Aaron C. Finley seriously. The artist’s approach to songs is equally casual, volume replacing emotion.
I’ve seen Kathleen Marshall’s work many times, not only on Broadway but at the 92Y’s eminent Lyrics & Lyricists series (framed much like this evening) where her intelligence, knowledge, and wit served to illuminate as well as entertain. Here, intermittent narration – rare, brief and more factual than telling, felt like an excerpt of something more substantial; disappointing from someone who usually offers so much more.
Arrangements by David Chase are atmospheric if, several times, unnecessarily Big.
Photo by Bruce Cohen
Opening left to right: Kathleen Marshall, Matt Doyle, Laura Osnes, Beth Malone, Aaron C. Finley
Deborah Grace Winer presents
A Jerome Robbins Centennial Celebration
Created and Hosted by Kathleen Marshall
Music Director David Chase
May 8, 2018