Friday, July 27, 2012

cabaret review REBECCA LUKER, 54 Below, July 6

Composer Jerome Kern was a major influence on the beginning of Rebecca Luker's Broadway career as Luker's first New York show was a concert in 1985 of Kern's Music in the Air at Town Hall.  After getting noticed at that concert, Luker recorded several Kern tunes on some studio recordings and after appearing in the original Broadway casts of The Phantom of the Opera and The Secret Garden she received a Tony nomination for her performance in the Kern/Hammerstein 1994 Broadway revival of Show Boat.  So it is no surprise that for Luker's debut concert at the new cabaret spot 54 Below it was an evening dedicated completely to Kern.

Directed by Luker's husband Danny Burstein, the concert was a perfect balance of Luker's lush soprano voice combined with stories about Kern that included a bit of his history as well as information on the shows he worked on and lyricists he worked with.  And while many of the songs were lesser known Kern tunes, there wasn't one misstep, false note or moment that Luker didn't completely own.  Her voice was clear, bright with perfect punctuation, making each and every lyric clearly understandable.

"Can't Help Singing" is a lovely song that set the tone for the evening, Luker was here to sing and nothing was going to stop her.  The comical tune "Saturday Night" is a humorous patter song with a funny tune to match the lyrics and Rebecca had no problem alternating between the serious songs and the comical ones in the set list like this one.  A phenomenal pairing of Show Boat's "Bill" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" was simply stunning.  The comical song from Sweet Adeline "My Husband's First Wife" provided a very humorous moment in the evening.  Luker followed this with the jaunty and jazzy "The Folks Who Live on the Hill".  "I'm Old Fashioned" and "The Way You Look Tonight" are two of Kern's most well known songs and Luker's performance of both was spot on.  Roberta's "I'll Be Hard to Handle" gave Luker another chance to wrap her stirring soprano voice around some witty lyrics by Otto Harbach set to a lovely Kern melody. One of Kern's last songs, set to lyrics by Dorothy Fields many years after his death, "April Fooled Me " gave Luker another chance to show her impeccable skills and her interpretation of the song was sweet, simple and a simply lovely end to the concert before Luker came back for two encores.  Those encores included a soaring version of "Why Was I Born?" and a vibrant "All the Things You Are."

Pianist and Musical Director Joseph Thalken was joined by Dick Sarpola on Bass and together they provided the perfect compliment to Luker's lush voice.

The acoustics at 54 Below are so clear and the setting so intimate that I can't wait to go back again to see another Broadway performer in an evening like the spectacular one that Luker gave us.

Rebecca's official website

54 Below website

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