Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway
Neil Berg, composer of the recent Off-Broadway show The Prince and the Pauper as well as The Man Who Would Be King, recently brought his 100 Years of Broadway with a powerhouse group of Broadway veterans for a three night stay at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Berg has been presenting classic Broadway show tunes sung by top flight singers from New York all around the country. The production was staged last year at the Napa Valley Opera House to high acclaim. He recently presented the two-hour revue on the island of Barbados for three weeks.
The talents of Rob Evan, Capathia Jenkins, Rita Harvey, William Michals, Danny Zolli and special guest star Rita Moreno were enlisted to sing favorite songs from 1927's Show Boat to the current Jersey Boys. The singers were backed by a great five-piece orchestra under Neil Berg's direction that sounded like a full scale ensemble.
The revue should be called "Broadway Show Tunes 101" since this is the kind of revue that entertains the audience with songs they remember from prior shows. There is really nothing new here, but it most certainly is audience friendly. I doubt if anyone will ever forget such classic show tunes like "The Impossible Dream", "Some Enchanted Evening," "Memory" or "Make Believe." The revue also features some great rockin' songs from Grease and Movin' Out.
100 Years of Broadway started on an upbeat note with Capathia Jenkins (Caroline or Change, Look of Love and Civil War on Broadway) belting out "All that Jazz" from Chicago with great assistance from Danny Zolli (Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar) and Rob Evan (Jekyll and Hyde). Later, Jenkins did a knock out version of "And I am Telling You I'm No Going" from Dreamgirls and was transcendent when singing "Memory" from Cats.
Rob Evan was wonderful with his pure tenor range when singing "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables and making a complete change to a great rendition of "Trouble" from Music Man, then a smooth arrangement of "Something's Coming" from West Side Story.
William Michals (The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Javert in Les Miserables, and the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera) did a powerhouse interpretation of two songs from Man of La Mancha and singing almost like Enzio Pinza on "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific.
Danny Zolli, with his enormous vocal range, sang the inspirational "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar marvelously and gave a great imitation of Frankie Valli singing "Sherry" from Jersey Boys. Later, he did a great job with "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" (Guys and Dolls).
Rita Harvey (recently was Hodel in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway) was vibrant in a duet with Jenkins in "I'm a Woman" from Smokey Joe's Café. Their voices blend together perfectly. She was sublime singing "Someone to Watch Over Me" from Oh, Kay.
Neil Berg got into the act, playing piano like Billy Joel in "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" from Movin' Out, with Danny Zolli really rocking in the number.
Rita Moreno (winner of an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award) was special guest star and she chose to sing "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls. She was very good acting and singing the lament of Nathan Detroit's longtime fiancé. Neil Berg announced that Ms. Moreno would sing a duet with Rita Harvey, "A Boy Like That" from West Side Story, and that this would be the first time the artist had consented to sing the song since her Academy Award performance forty years ago. (At the beginning of the number she attempted the high notes but her voice cracked and she did the rest of the number in a talk-song manner.)
100 Years of Broadway is a pleasing and audience friendly revue for folks who don't go the theatre regularly. Neil Berg is a showman first class as he tells the audience of some of the history of the Broadway musical theatre. The revue played from March 10 - March 12, 2006.