The third of this year’s Broadway Close-Up series is a delightful evening spotlighting “the underappreciated duet.” It’s impossible to dispute that numbers Broadway audiences remember best are either star solos or impactful company numbers. Host Sean Hartley recognizes two kinds of duets, those where characters interact and those where players each sing separately, then turn to one another. With few exceptions, tonight concentrates on the former. Choices reflect variety, offering skilled, often lesser known examples.
Sean Hartley; Jeff Kready and Lora Lee Gayner
The first two selections are from musicals whose heroes “got conked on the head” and woke in the past. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were in their mid twenties with songs in 10 shows before they wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Kevin Massey and Farah Alvin open with “On A Desert Island With Thee.” Alvin is a bit shrill in this sweet number, but fares well as taxi driver Hildy in On the Town where her broad brass works for the character – with Jeff Kready (good physical comedy). Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein wrote this entire show and got it up in eight months.
Kevin Massey and Farah Alvin
Though Kready’s vocal is splendid in “Agony” with Jason Gotay, he doesn’t take advantage of its implicit, black humor. (Stephen Sondheim- Into the Woods) A more successful turn is the wry “It’s Better with A Man,” another directorial standout. (Steven Lutvak-The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder)
Du Barry Was a Lady (Cole Porter) where a hapless hero wakes as Louis XIV, evokes the comment, “If a song had nothing to do with the plot, the book writer just worked it in. Things were written around stars.” Veterans Sally Wilfert and John Herrera deftly render “But in The Morning, No.” Both performers are a familiar pleasure. Wilfert shines through every number exhibiting both grand vocals and superior acting chops in full makes-it-look-easy mode. The pair’s rendition of “Our Children” (Lynn Ahrens/Steve Flaherty- Ragtime) has heart and history. Herrera’s “Dear Theodosia” with Gotay is palpably warm. (Linn Manuel Miranda – Hamilton)
Sally Wilfert and John Herrera
Gabrielle Stravelli (one of our fine jazz vocalists) and Lora Lee Gayer are well cast as out-of-their-element sisters Ruth and Eileen in Wonderful Town (Betty Comden/ Adolph Green/ Leonard Bernstein). Harmony rules. Stravelli’s amusing “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” with Massey playing Eddie Foy’s role in The Pajama Game reflects her well, but I don’t believe Massey for a moment. (Richard Adler/ Jerry Ross)
One really good subject for duets is fights. Stravelli and Massey sing “You Still Have a Long Way to Go” (Larry Grossman/Hal Hackaday – Goodtime Charlie.) with effective spit and spirit. Hartley calls “What Is This Feeling?” “a perky, upbeat fight song.”(Stephen Schwartz – Wicked) Gayer and Alvin deliver bright sound suited to the staccato lyrics.
Jeff Kready and Kevin Massey
In parting, the picturesquely arranged company offers Stephen Sondheim’s “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow” (Follies).
This is a well produced and cutely directed show. Hartley is an excellent host. Information is savvy, lighthearted, and brief. Musical Director Georgia Stitt does a fine job at the piano; vocal arrangements are adroit.
Sally Wilfert and Lora Lee Gayer; Georgia Stitt; John Herrera and Gabrielle Stravelli
The evening comes together with Marcia Milgrom’s imaginative physical direction. Vocalists use much of the stage, gesture with specificity, involve one another and occasionally dance. That not all of them seem to understand the characters they play doesn’t dim Milgrom’s gift-wrapping the evening in appealing charm.
Photos by David Andrako.
Opening: Background: John Herrera, Gabrielle Stravelli, Georgia Stitt, Jason Gotay, Jeff Kready, Sally Wilfert, Lora Lee Gaynor. Foreground: Farah Alvin, Kevin Massey
Broadway Close-Up presents
Two’s Company; Broadway’s Greatest Duets
Marcia Milgrom Dodge – Director
Georgia Stitt- Music Director/Piano