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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Marvin Hamlisch's American Songbook
Offers Smiles and Goosebumps at Benaroya Hall


Brian Stokes Mitchell
Broadway is well represented in Seattle these past few week. No less than Lea Salonga, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel have appeared or will appear here in concerts, and this weekend Brian Stokes Mitchell and Ashley (Mary Poppins) Brown are featured soloists with Tony/Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch conducting the Seattle Symphony and serving as the genial, amusing host of Marvin Hamlisch's American Songbook. A solid opening night crowd cheered every minute of a tight, 100 minute show, with Broadway melodies prominently featured, alongside a few movie tunes and standards.

Hamlisch and the soul-satisfying Seattle Symphony kicked off with a tuneful tour through the score of My Fair Lady before welcoming the vocally pure and eminently personable Ms. Brown to the stage for her set. This thoroughly engaging young lady showed off her impressive pipes on such tunes as "Let's Fall in Love," a medley of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," and the Styne, Comden and Green "Make Someone Happy, "I'll Be Seeing You," and a snappy "If I Were A Bell," which surely indicated that Sarah Brown in Guys & Dolls is a role in her future.

Mr. Stokes Mitchell, clearly pleased as punch to be making his performing debut in the city of his birth, proved not just a heavy hitter, but a home run champ, running the gamut from a silky "Some Enchanted Evening," to an insinuating Antônio Carlos Jobim selection, to a fitting solo closer of "The Impossible Dream." Topping all of these were his rousing recreations of the Ragtime knockout "Wheels of a Dream" and an unplugged stunner of "This Nearly Was Mine," which spoiled me ever hearing that standard by anyone else in the future. He and Ms. Brown affably paired on a corny but cute "Anything You Can Do" and a charming "People Will Say Were in Love," though the latter seemed an odd choice of a curtain call number when the pair might have had more fun with something like "Wunderbar." Still that's as close as the evening came to faltering, and that is quite an accomplishment.

As for maestro Hamlisch, he is a sheer delight, and Seattle is blessed to have such a solid veteran to headline the Symphony's pop concerts.

Marvin Hamlisch's American Songbook wraps up with a performance June 3 at 2pm at Benaroya Hall, 3rd Ave and Union Street in Downtown Seattle. For tickets visit www.seattlesymphony.org.



- David Edward Hughes



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