Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Musical Week

It’s our universal language and while the political discourse is discordant, music seems to bring out our commonalities.  Our favorite musical genres are songs from Broadway, the Great American Songbook, and Jazz and so it was with much anticipation that we looked forward to last week which began with a show at the Delray Beach Playhouse, I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser.

Ann arranged a preshow dinner at Racks Fish House off Delray’s famous (and congested) Atlantic Avenue, a happening place.  It was a balmy early April evening, with a nice breeze so we dined al fresco.  Imagine our surprise reading the appetizer menu which included Copps Island, CT oysters!  Copps Island which is connected at low tide to Crow Island is where we have taken our boat for the last 35 years during the summers, anchoring there on weekends.  So here we were, some 1,250 miles away dining on wild oysters from those very waters.  These are bottom planted as opposed to cage or floating trays and the oysters are known for “sweet briny flavor and plump meats. “  It was a nice and nostalgic start to the evening.

Delray Beach Playhouse which opened in 1947 is a community theatre featuring everything from one person acts to full scale plays.  They have a dedicated audience, we now among them.  But who knew, the playhouse is on Lake Ida, a fresh water lake right off of I95, comprising 121 acres, but seeming much larger than that as it is long and narrow.  Looking at it is reminiscent of our days on Lake George in NY and Candlewood Lake in CT as one can see similar boat houses and lake front homes.

I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser was narrated by Randolph DelLago who has been the Resident Artistic Director of the Playhouse since 1982.  He also sings in this production.  When one thinks of Frank Loesser, one recalls the iconic Guys and Dolls, one of the great classic musicals of Broadway’s Golden Era.  It perhaps has more recognizable songs than any other musical, including those of Rogers and Hammerstein.  He only wrote four other musicals, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, being the most notable.  Songs were performed from all of these with original still scenes projected on a backdrop.  The Most Happy Fella has one of the most moving rhapsodic opera style songs ever written for the Great White Way, “My Heart is So Full of You,” one of my favorites for the piano, with an exotic bridge section of eight bars.

But Loesser, who was cast out by his family as they thought “songwriting” was beneath their dignity (his father was a piano teacher and his brother was a classical piano prodigy), found his roots in popular song in Hollywood before migrating to Broadway.  There are many memorable songs he wrote for The Great American Songbook and this show had many, such as “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You,” “Heart and Soul,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” “Two Sleepy People,”“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,”“No Two People,” and “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” (the latter being another personal piano favorite of mine).  Along with DelLago, performances were given by Alicia Branch-Stafford, a soprano, baritone William Stafford, and Hanz Eneart who added a little cabaret dancing to the show as well as joining the ensemble in song with a comedic rendition of” Once in Love with Amy.”

Breaking up the week was a trip to Peanut Island with my friend John, a destination on the boat which will become more frequent as the water warms to bathtub temperatures.  Amazing that at one time in my life, jumping into the waters off of Copps Island into 70 degree water was refreshing but now wadding into Peanut’s current 79 degree water seems difficult!  Maybe that’s because the air temperature on Thursday was in the high 80s.  Got home late in the afternoon, just in time to clean the boat with John, shower, and get ready to go to the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

There we saw West Side Story towards the end of its run, so I am not publishing a full review.  This is what the Maltz Theatre does best but, still, we were a little concerned about seeing this yet again.  Could it still possibly be fresh (although the music by Bernstein and lyrics by Sondheim are immortal)?

The short answer is a resounding yes!  I think some of the classic musicals are being looked at in a new light, due to the times and the influence of Hamilton.  Most recently this is apparent with the Circle in the Square’s current production of Oklahoma which some have criticized as a travesty, irreverent to Rogers and Hammerstein’s intent.  I’m not too sure, although that was my knee jerk reaction.  Now, thinking about it, and reading more about it, I’m willing to be persuaded and therefore we’re going to see it sometime in August.  I’ll be lining up for the chili and corn bread!

There is a dark side to Oklahoma, as in all of the R&H plays.  Just think of Billy Bigalow’s corruptibility in Carousel, or the racial tensions of South Pacific and The King and I, the lurking Nazi shadows in The Sound of Music.  These musicals were played out for the audiences of their times with relatively happy resolutions (just what was expected then).  One could cast them now in an entirely different light and why not?

In a sense, the Maltz’s interpretation of West Side Story has been so influenced.  A framing device of Hurricane Maria has been introduced.  How ironic is that, the Maria of the story picking up after Hurricane Maria, alone with her memories of Tony?  This scene reprises at the end of the show.  It was a lovely, moving touch, particularly in the light of how this terrible storm has been politicized.

And with Puerto Rican born Marcos Santana’s direction and musical staging, we have more of a take on the Sharks rather than the Jets.  The hell-bent fury of xenophobic victimization is explosively probed by Angel Lozada who plays Bernardo.  Michelle Alves performance as Anita is more than up to the easily remembered performance of Chita Rivera in that part.  Alves is every bit as dynamic as a dancer and is a very talented vocalist as well.

Not enough praise can be directed toward Jim Schubin who plays Tony and Evy Ortiz as Maria.  Schubin brings a strong sense of constant optimism and wonder to the role as well as a clear tenor voice.  Ortiz is the ideal Maria, a soprano and coloratura who is radiant in the role of Maria (she was recently on the West Side Story national tour).  They had the perfect chemistry as Tony and Maria and their duets soared.

The choreography by Al Blackstone (with additional choreography by the director), gives a hat tip to Jerome Robbins’ choreography but is original and pulsating on the Maltz stage.  It’s a smaller cast than the original musical, but one would not know it.

With the refugee crisis of our times, it was time to look at West Side Story through a different lens, and the Maltz comes through. 

And last night we attended the 1st Palm Beach International Jazz Festival, the first, we hope, of many in the future.  It is the idea of one of South Florida’s premier jazz singers, Yvette Norwood-Tiger, who has traveled the world with her interpretations of jazz classics, particularly songs sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.  She performs in six languages including English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Xhosa.

She created an afternoon and evening performance with different groups and singers.  We attended the evening performance and thus my comments are confined to that.

First up was Marlow Rosado, a Latin Jazz pianist from Puerto Rico, and his group.  Rasado is a salsero, and is imposing at the piano with his driving salsa rhythms, somewhat reminiscent of Monte Alexander.  I said to Ann that I’ve never seen a pianist who could pass as a football tight end and the physicality of his performance spoke wonders.  He posted last night’s performance on Facebook, so you can catch him there.
Next up was Eric & The Jazzers, a South Florida group of professional musicians that play swing/bebop from the great era of Duke Ellington.  Eric Trouillot also served as MC for the night’s performances, a guy from the Bronx who brought out the best of the very well represented NYC crowd (including us).

His group’s trumpet player, Yamin Mustafa, is one of the best we’ve heard and pianist, Chad Michaels, obviously has studied Oscar Peterson’s technique closely. As Mustafa said, the group’s musical selections are eclectic.

But the star of the night was clearly the evening’s organizer, Yvette Norwood-Tiger.  Yvette is a survivor of a benign yet life-threatening brain tumor because of its size and position, but had a successful operation some seven years ago.  Every time we’ve seen her she encourages the audience to “find that door opening” and for her it is singing Horace Silver’s jazz classic "Song for My Father."  Naturally, Yvette means it quite literally, thanking God for the opportunity to continue on with her unique gifts, a powerful yet sometimes subtle interpreter of the Great American Songbook. 

Backing her up musically were all the “old gang” we see almost every Sunday night at Double Roads in Jupiter, her musical director for the evening and oh-so talented pianist, also the co founder of the Jupiter Jazz Society, Rick Moore.  Along with Rick were Marty Gilman, on sax and flute, Joshua Ewers on bass and Michael Mackey on trumpet.  Marty is a multitalented musician who can play a large number of instruments at the professional level and we watched Joshua and Michael while they were still in high school, and have now grown into professional musicians in their own right.

And to bring this entry back to where it began (remember, Copps Island, in the Norwalk CT chain of islands), I learned that Horace Silver (Yvette’s tribute composer), was born in Norwalk, CT so it seems that all roads lead back to our years there.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Palm Beach Dramaworks Stages an Inspired Rendering of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’

It begins sweetly, the easy jousting of two old friends, Jim Bono and Troy Maxson, so innocently that the audience is quickly ushered into their lives.  Although these are two garbage men returning at the end of a work week in 1957 Pittsburgh, a bottle of gin to share, and are African-Americans, we identify with the universality of their banter.  Troy has dutifully brought his weekly pay to give to his wife, Rose, and enjoys spinning yarns to his appreciative listener, Bono.  So begins August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning Fences and Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production which steadily builds to a cathartic climax.

Palm Beach Dramaworks' Producing Artistic Director, Bill Hayes, also the Director of Fences, has undertaken to make this production a signature piece in his company’s long history of triumphs.  He picks PBD’s productions with a vision for their excellence and relevancy to our lives and then selects a cast to work with its talented technical crew. 

John Archie, Lester Purry
Here the cast are all accomplished actors dedicated to the works of August Wilson, among the greatest of American playwrights.  Many have played in several Wilson plays, often in the same role.  Although just beginning its run, Fences’ cast has already come together as a “family.”  Their performances soar, unforgettable, mining the heart of Wilson’s poetic dialogue and the African-American experience many of us can only imagine.  Here we get to viscerally walk the walk.  It is enlightening and heart-wrenching.

Hayes takes the play to the very edge of Wilson’s intent, wanting Troy’s vulnerabilities and his humanity to be on full display.  There is an element of “every-man” in the universality of the themes.  He underscores the many comedic aspects of Wilson’s first act, disarming the audience, leaving us all the more susceptible to the dramatic fire kindling beneath that will blaze into full fury.  Hayes saves his most emphatic directorial statement until the end with a touch of magical realism but throughout, the director’s vision coupled with his love of the play and cast is tangible and affecting.   

This is no easy task as the span of the play’s eight years is panoramic and emotionally consuming.  And its main character, Troy Maxson, is a conundrum of a character, full of tragic flaws and yet possessing traits of nobility along with a disarming honesty.  He is larger than life, an inherently good man who has been seriously damaged by his father, poverty, and the disadvantages of his race, and deterministically visits the sins of the father upon his sons.  In so doing he impacts the lives of all in his orbit.  And like many of us, he is wrestling with his own mortality, symbolized by his imaginary encounters with death, building a fence to metaphorically keep the grim reaper out.

Lester Purry, Karen Stephens

Making his PBD debut, Lester Purry’s portrayal of Troy Maxson is seismic and when he is on stage it’s as if all the oxygen is taken out of the room by his performance, his forceful voice reaching one’s very solar plexus.  He alternates between accepting his lot in life, assuming his responsibilities, and then helplessly allowing his subliminal rage of victimization to rise to the surface.  He is intransigent about his beliefs and can be a terrifying bully, particularly toward his son, Cory. 

It all starts with Troy’s own father who was a failed sharecropper, tantamount to being a “free slave.”  His father had one mandate for his son: work.  As Troy recalls, he had taken a 13 year old girl by a creek when he was supposed to be working.  His father finds him and begins to whip Troy with the reins from a mule.  He realizes that his father was chasing him “so he could have the gal for himself.”  They fight but in the end, his father beats the 14 year old Troy senseless.

Purry delivers Wilson’s words passionately to Bono and his son Lyons, allowing the full emotion and poetry of the author to settle upon the audience as this hideous act is at the core of the generational family dysfunctionality:

“When I woke up, I was laying right there by the creek, and Blue…this old dog we had…was licking my face. I thought I was blind. I couldn’t see nothing. Both my eyes were swollen shut. I layed there and cried….The only thing I knew was the time had come for me to leave my daddy’s house. And right there the world suddenly got big. And it was a long time before I could cut it down to where I could handle it.”

In the “cutting down” period he is incarcerated for 15 years, having unintentionally committed murder during a robbery, becomes a star baseball player in the Negro leagues afterwards, marries Rose, and becomes a garbage man in Pittsburgh.  When Troy says “you got to take the crookeds with the straights,” it is a baseball metaphor which has grown into how he now looks at the world and becomes his advice to his sons.  Yet there is always the resentment that he was denied the chance to play baseball in the major leagues, “born too early” to break the color line. 

As one of the best plays of American theatre, each character has real depth and development.  Troy’s wife, Rose, is played by PBD veteran Karen Stephens.  This part was Stephens’ dream role.

She displays her comically loving moments with a heartfelt admiration of Troy, and even when he humiliates her, she accepts her situation.  From Wilson’s stage notes, “She recognizes Troy’s spirit as a fine and illuminating one and she either ignores or forgives his faults, only some of which she recognizes.”

Her performance intensifies when Troy confesses that he’s been having an affair.  In fact he’s going to be a father.  He rationalizes that this relationship is separate from his love for Rose (implying that he’s staying with Rose), saying this other woman makes him feel special, and that for 18 years (with Rose) he feels like he’s “ been standing in the same place.”

Karen Stephens, Lester Purry
Stephens now agonizingly tells her version of the truth: “….I’ve been standing with you! I’ve been right here with you Troy. I got a life too. I gave 18 years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me…. But I held onto you Troy. I held you tighter. You was my husband. I owe you everything I had. Every part of me I could find to give you. And upstairs in that room with the darkness falling in on me… I gave everything I had to try to erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world. And where ever you was going… I wanted to be there with you. Cause you was my husband. Cause that’s the only way I was going to survive as your wife. You always talking about what you give… and what you don’t have to give. But you take too. You take… and don’t even know nobody’s giving!”

Those words, so achingly delivered by Stephens, illustrate the poet in the playwright, some repetition to drive home themes, the rhythm sublime.

Other than Rose, nearest to him is his sidekick, Bono, worshiping Troy, and serving as a sounding board and Troy’s conscience.  PBD’s veteran, John Archie, reprises his recent Florida Repertory Theatre role as Bono, the best friend who articulates the thematic heart of the play “some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to all of you. She loves you. “

Archie wrings out all the emotion portraying Bono who, towards the end of the play, comes by one last time to give Troy a loving tip-of-the-hat to acknowledge that “[you] learned me.”  By this time, Troy is a very lonely man finding consolation in his gin.

Much of the play’s drama focuses on Troy’s relationship with his two sons.  Troy bestows his own peculiar kind of love on the one hand and his ever present wrath on the other.  Each is caught up in his own generational perspective, Troy’s formative years being so different than his sons.  His fatherly skills rise only to the point of wanting his sons to find “responsible work,” expecting they abandon their own dreams.  But in his heart he simply does not want them to turn out like he did.

Jayla Georges, Warren Jackson
Lyons is his older son from a previous relationship with a woman who left Troy while he was in prison.  Warren Jackson in his PBD debut plays his part with a benign, arms-length acceptance of his father.  There is some playful back and forth between Troy and Lyons, his son always borrowing some money from Troy, his father holding that over his head, admonishing him to get a real job, not as a part-time musician.  Jackson conveys the absent father theme, like a leitmotif saying “hey Pop why don’t you come on down to the grill and hear me play?”  He knows the answer will always be an excuse and Jackson’s expressions of regret are never lost on the audience. 

Troy and Rose’s biological son Cory is played by Jovon Jacobs, his PBD debut.  Jacobs just finished a highly praised engagement as Walter Lee in New City Players' A Raisin in the Sun.  He has an explosive relationship with his father, Jacobs showing his character’s developing strength of conviction, distain for, and then willingness finally to challenge his alpha male father.  His is another bravura performance, seething with heart hurt fury.
Lester Purry, Jovan Jacobs Photo by Alicia Donelan
Cory is the depository of all his father’s shattered dreams of sports glory, the generational violence, and Troy’s denial of Cory possibly playing football on a college sports scholarship.  No, Troy insists, he must find a trade to survive in a white man’s world, not accepting that times have changed.  He demands that Cory address him as “sir.”  They finally have a highly charged climactic confrontation:

“CORY:  You talking about what you did for me…what’d you ever give me?
TROY:  The feet and bones! The pumping heart, nigger! I give you more than anybody else is ever gonna give you.
CORY:  You ain’t never gave me nothing! You ain’t never done nothing but hold me back. Afraid I was gonna be better than you. I used to tremble every time you called my name. Every time I heard your footsteps in the house. Wondering all the time…what’s Papa gonna say if I do this?...What’s he gonna say if I do that?...What’s Papa gonna say if I turn on the radio?   And Mama, too…she tries…but she’s scared of you.”

Jacobs delivers these lines with intensity, his eyes flaring with hatred.  Cory knows a secret about his father, his using some of the money Troy’s brother, Gabriel, gets from the government.  Upon revealing this knowledge to his father, their verbal combat escalates into a terrifying physical brawl, stunningly choreographed by Lee Soroko.

Uncle Gabriel, Troy’s brother, is masterly played by Bryant Bentley, also his PBD debut although a veteran of several Wilson plays.  Having suffered a mentally disabling head injury in WW II, he is now convinced that he will play his broken Gabriel’s trumpet to open heaven’s gates one day.  Bentley plays up the role with a moral purity and a child-like innocence frequently foreshadowing the action.  

Karen Stephens, Bryant Bentley, Lester Purry
He loves Rose, usually bringing her a rose when he visits during his many wanderings through the streets.  Gabriel is a symbol of African-American pain, his screaming incantations at the end of the play a stake in the heart of American racism.  Bentley’s performance is stirring, cutting through to truths about how our society marginalizes people of color or those with disabilities.

There is still another half sibling in the play, Raynell.  We first see her as an innocent baby in Troy’s arms who Rose agrees to raise after Troy’s other woman dies in childbirth, and then as a delightful young girl at the play’s end.  Raynell’s youthful innocence has a pivotal role in helping Cory get past his blind anger as they plaintively share the refrains of a song their father used to sing:“…I had a dog his name was Blue/You know Blue was mighty true/You know Blue was a good old dog ….”  Ultimately there is forgiveness and hope for the future.  The part of Raynell is alternatingly played by two local elementary school actresses, Jayla Georges and Raegan Franklin.

Scenic design is by Michael Amico who has created a masterpiece set by capturing a slice of a downtrodden Pittsburgh neighborhood in the 1950s.  It rises on the PBD stage as a monument to the lives that are so accurately portrayed by Wilson.  There life stubbornly pushes forth from the ashes of the past.  Little patches of grass can be seen beneath the porch, and although two buildings next to the Maxson house are abandoned during most of the play, at the end there is life in them and it is spring.

Resident costume designer Brian O’Keefe nostalgically recreates the working class outfits of the economic and social station of the characters.  Rose, in particular, with her changing housedresses and church going costumes and glorious wig recall with perfection those outfits that live in the memory of the PBD audience.  His usual attention to detail enhances the realism of the play.

George Jackson’s lighting design bathes most of the production in full light with an occasional dimming spot at scenes’ end.  Dabbled lighting on the buildings show the shadows of trees.  His dramatic lighting at the conclusion enriches the dramatic effect envisioned by Director Hayes.

Sound design by David Thomas focuses on realistic street sounds stage right, a barking dog stage left, and swirling wind as the play transits six years at the end, enhanced by musical blues riffs between scenes as well as some traditional 1950s jazz.  (Wilson himself said the blues influenced his writing more than the work of other playwrights.)  Thomas’ sound and Jackson’s lighting effects join together to offer a consoling conclusion to this incredible piece of work.

James Danford
The importance of the Stage Manager, James Danford, cannot be overstated.  The accuracy of the endless details, from timing of costume changes to cues for the technical crew, to the placement and movement of props between scenes depend on the split second timing controlled by him.  We learned that Danford, at the end of this play’s run, will be retiring after nearly 40 years and 225 shows.  He will be missed, but it is fitting that as in the case with some major leaguers, his retirement comes at the pinnacle of his distinguished career.

With Fences Wilson has written an ode to his protagonist, befitting his literary beginnings as a poet.  The language is rich, rhythmical, and through the prism of the African-American experience.  PBD’s production of this great play ranks as one of its very best in many seasons of consistent achievements.

Cast Photos by Samantha Mighdoll

Friday, March 15, 2019

Two Different Musical Eras

We attended concerts two nights in a row.  As it turns out, they are like the bookends in my life.

I began my love of music in my early teens, the music of rock ‘n roll.  In college my musical allegiance morphed to classical.  As I play the piano, my adult years have been consumed by the Great American Songbook, and Jazz.  As I’ve matured I’ve come to appreciate some opera and in particular the potent instrument of the human voice.

Last night we revisited a performance of one of the world’s great tenors, Emmet Cahill, who returned to the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach.  Last year when I reviewed Cahill’s concert I had thought that his titanic talent warranted “a bigger boat” but nonetheless he returned to this same church and I understand why.  He began singing as a child in his home church in Ireland with his family and besides being a proud Irishman from the town of Mullingar; he is a religious young man as well.  Interestingly his love of these essential elements of his life transcends the ambition of many of his contemporaries.  Thus, he is content to allow his career to develop rather than rocketing overnight which perhaps it could if he pursued it at the expense of other values.  I have profound respect for him as a human being, not to mention as an astonishing artist.

He is also loyal to the Robert Sharon Chorale, the 84-voice-strong local community chorale which appears with him at the church, usually performing as an opening to Emmet’s solo appearance but sometimes backing him up as well.  His voice, though, needs no backup, other than his very talented accompanist, Seamus Brett, an extraordinarily gifted pianist.

The format of last night’s concert was similar to last year’s with perhaps more emphasis on liturgical and Irish pieces, but still a number of Broadway pieces so suitable for his voice such as “This is the Moment” and “Bring Him Home.”  Of course, with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, his Irish upbringing impacted his musical selections this time around. 

Many of the pieces he sang were from his new CD Blessings of Music which includes “Be Thou My Vision, "Galway Bay," "The Gaelic Blessing," "Amazing Grace," "Ag Criost An Siol" (Christ is the Seed"), "Panis Angelicus,", "The Last Rose of Summer," "Moon River," "Danny Boy" and "How Great Thou Art."

As with last year, the audience was invited to shout out some pieces for him to sing and Seamus Brett would arrange them on the fly and Cahill performed them as if having rehearsed them for that particular concert.  I asked him to sing “Children will Listen” which he knew was from Sondheim, but said he’d better practice that.  And so I wait for Cahill to take that next step in his career.

I had selfishly asked his publicist about those plans and she said “Emmet has returned to his first musical love, opera, so don't be surprised if you hear him sing a bit of that at his concert. He's been training with a voice coach and fans will tell you Emmet's voice has more resonance now (and he sings in a higher key!). Yes, he'd love to do a Broadway musical one of these days. He told me that opera is a way to get into musical theater.”

And opera he sang, a superlative rendition of “O Sole Mio – which he also performed last year, but this time with a discernible intensity of voice and clarity which elicited another rousing standing ovation.

And as he said, he would not be let out of the auditorium on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day without performing “Danny Boy” which I managed to get a brief clip of and posted on my Twitter feed.

Emmet, you had us at the words “glad to be back” and we gladly look forward to your next appearance here and will watch your career with interest and amazement.  You are a unique talent, a captivating personality, and are truly blessed with a golden voice.

It’s hard to segue from Emmet to the dynamic denizens of Rock ‘N Roll, so apologies to Emmet’s fans, but welcome to those who remember the 50’s.  The night before seeing Emmet I experienced that other end of the “bookend” referred to at the beginning of this entry, and that is seeing One Night in Memphis at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.  This included the original cast members of the Broadway hit Million Dollar QuartetIn effect it's a concert rendition of the show which was about a legendary one night session in Memphis at the birth of Sun Records, a jam session featuring Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. 

Carl Perkins was my first favorite as a kid, a cross over performer of rockabilly and country.  His big hits were the original rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes” (before Elvis’ version), “Honey Don’t,” “ Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby” and he was quickly followed by Jerry Lee Lewis  (“Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On,” “Great Balls of Fire”), Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire") and of course the most famous of them all, Elvis Presley (“Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up”).  These are but a FEW of the songs performed by the four talented guys in the show. 

Normally, I don’t seek out performers who are imitators of famous entertainers, but will make an exception for this show as with every passing moment they seemed to BECOME the originals.  This particularly applied to the performer who played Elvis, as he was under the most scrutiny and at first your senses reject him as Elvis, but quickly he won over the audience.  I still have Elvis’ first 33-1/3 record he recorded for RCA.  My wife, Ann, actually saw him in person in 1956 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta as an Elvis crazed teen!

John Mueller who played Carl Perkins was particularly effective as his guitar playing accompanied all the performers throughout the show.  Blair Carman as “the Killer” is a very talented pianist, convincing as Jerry Lee Lewis, even “tickling” the ivories with the heel of his shoe.  Shawn Barker plays the "Man in Black," Johnny Cash and in one song manages to sing a lick an octave below bass.  Truly, a crowd-pleaser.  Finally, Brandon Bennett as Elvis undergoes that transformation before our eyes.  And boy can he twist and shake!

Heartfelt thanks to all the many talented artists in this world who bring the joy of music into our lives.