It's A Good Day for Miss Peggy Lee at Centerstage Theatre
Not a celebrity impersonation show by any means, It's A Good Day for Miss Peggy Lee, which had its first public performance this past Saturday at Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way, is a heart-on-its-sleeve tribute to the long and storied career of one of America's great singer/songwriters. Freed from the responsibility of "being" Peggy, the lovely and rich-voiced Lindsey Larson takes on literally dozens of Lee hits, and delivers a grand night singing.
Miss Larson's voice is probably rangier than Miss Lee's ever was, even when the veteran songstress was starting out in the 1940s. Despite the brassy and bountiful eight-piece band backing her up, Larson's clarion alto belted out hit after hit, with a robust force that seemed not to need the amplification provided. The playbill lists some fifty or so Lee-associated songs that may be performed, and I dare say Larson sang 2/3 of them, whether as solos or in medley form.
Act one begins with what else but Lee's hit "It's A Good Day," and the act two opener bookends that with "It's a Good, Good Night." You want the Lee classics? Larson tickles us with "Maņana", raises the audience's temperatures with "Fever," and is at her most beguiling on the one Lee (with Sonny Burke) smash written and performed by her for a Disney film, the swingin' "He's a Tramp" from Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp. The searing and poignant "Is That All There Is?," Lee's biggest latter day smash, isn't all it should be yet, but with a slower tempo and more of a focus on character, Larson will probably make it her own. She is captivating with two marvelous medleys devised by the show's estimable musical director (and arranger) David Duvall: One is a medley of lesser known numbers, and an even better one takes on songs that perhaps Lee shouldn't have recorded ("Spinning Wheel" anyone?"). Lee sang a lot of Cy Coleman, and his tunes like "The Best Is Yet to Come," Big Spender" and "When in Rome" are smack in Larson's comfort zone. She gets weighed down a bit with a lot of narration concerning Lee's career (we learn little about her life) which she reads off of a script. Less dialogue, and no book in hand would do her and the show a service.
Two absolute standouts must be noted. Arthur Hamilton wrote the "Sing a Rainbow" from the film Pete Kelly's Blues which won Lee a best supporting actress Oscar nomination, and Larson's simple delivery, almost child-like in its simplicity, is quite heartbreaking. She is at her most radiant paying homage to Lee's self-described "favorite" song, Kern and Hammerstein's "The Folks Who Live on the Hill." Larson, as appealing a belter as Seattle has at the moment, shows what an untapped actress she is on these two offerings.
Musical director Duvall and his band deliver a big band sound when necessary, but know when to take it nice and easy. The overall result is a show that might need some pruning of numbers (but where to start?) and script, and maybe some stage direction. But, as a great American songbook style piece, it has the right star and the right music to go places.
It's A Good Day for Miss Peggy Lee is a production of David Duvall's Purple Phoenix Productions, which has its own Facebook page. Centerstage Theatre is home for many of these musical shows which celebrate classic American music, and their web address is www.centerstagetheatre.com. Lindsey Larson will perform excerpts of It's A Good Day for Miss Peggy Lee in a show this summer called Bobby D and Peggy Lee: Together Again at Bellevue Civic Theatre July 12-20. For information go to www.bellevuevcivic.org.