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Regional Reviews by Nancy Grossman

Celebrity Series of Boston Presents
Brian Stokes Mitchell

Sanders Theater, Memorial Hall, Harvard University

Also see Matthew's review of August: Osage County

A Separate Peace
Brian Stokes Mitchell
Brian Stokes Mitchell delivered what he promised in his opening number, "Some Enchanted Evening" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Everything about this man is smooth, from his stylishly tailored gray suit and lilac tie to his verbal banter, but most especially his rich, buttery baritone voice. In a program highlighting Broadway tunes, Stokes displayed his acting ability along with his vocal chops, making the character of each song distinct and showing exactly why he has received a Tony Award (Kiss Me, Kate) and three additional nominations.

Accompanied by outstanding jazz pianist Tedd Firth, Stokes strolled memory lane to reprise selections from some of his roles, including a comedic "Where is the Life That Late I Led?" (Kiss Me, Kate) and a sweetly reverent "Dulcinea" (Man of LaMancha). In addition to appearing on Broadway, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, most notably in South Pacific in concert. The most moving and unforgettable moment of the evening came when Stokes put down the microphone to sing Emile de Becque's 11 o'clock number, "This Nearly Was Mine," with a heartbreaking vulnerability that was perfection. It doesn't get any better.

Shifting gears from the powerful lamentation, Stokes swaggered through Billy Bigelow's "Soliloquy," played melodeon on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Waters of March" and oozed sensuality in Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?" He proudly noted that he has added children's book author to his long list of accomplishments ("Lights on Broadway with Brian Stokes Mitchell") to benefit The Actors Fund, of which he is President. He offered a special version of the Ahrens & Flaherty song "I Was Here" that comes on a CD with the book, followed by Maury Yeston's "New Words" for all the moms in the audience.

Stokes genuinely and politely lauded Sanders Hall and the Boston area, mentioning his affection for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Recalling the feelings of hope and elation on President Obama's election night and how that influenced the ending of his show, he concluded with an a cappella rendering of "America the Beautiful," the hopeful "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime and the essential encore, "The Impossible Dream."

Brian Stokes Mitchell appeared on May 9, 2010, at Harvard University, in Cambridge. Celebrity Series of Boston 617-482-2595 or www.celebrityseries.org.



- Nancy Grossman



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