Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's recent reviews of Once and Constellations
While most people know Jason Alexander from his hilarious portrayal of George Costanza on TV's "Seinfeld," long before he received accolades for that performance, he had appeared in several Broadway shows and he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 1989 for Jerome Robbins' Broadway. Alexander fell in love with Broadway at a young age and he talked about the highs and lows in his career during his recent concert appearance at Arizona Musicfest which featured him showing off his sharp comic abilities as well as his strong musical theatre singing voice.
After a humorous introduction and an opening number, which Alexander wrote, called "So Exciting for You," that was very fun, with lyrics that focused on how excited the audience should be to see him, a half dozen musical theatre songs and medleys followed that were all well delivered. There was also a fun segment that involved members of the audience. Alexander's concert provided the perfect tone that was humorous but also quite moving at times when he spoke about his late parents.
In addition to his strong singing voice, Alexander has a natural connection with the audience along with a fun, self-deprecating sense of humor on display on the well written song introductions and between song patter throughout the 80-minute concert. The evening followed Alexander's life, from his teen years growing up in New Jersey to the musicals that inspired him and made him want to become an actor, along with songs from his first Broadway show.
The concert included a rousing performance of "Trouble" from The Music Man, which was one of the classic shows that he said he became familiar with after listening to the many musical cast albums that his older sister had in her record collection. He also spoke about how, after his family moved towns, he was welcomed in by the theatre kids and started going to see shows. One of the first ones he saw, which he said also tied into his love of magic, was Pippin and his delivery of a grouping of songs from that show that combined "Magic to Do" and "Corner of the Sky" was strong and impactful.
The first Broadway show he appeared in, when he was just 21, was a flop, Merrily We Roll Along, and his performance of a medley of Stephen Sondheim songs from that show made it clear how important that show was to him, even if it didn't run long. He also appeared in another show that didn't run long, The Rink, with Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli, and his performance of a song that Minnelli was associated with, "Ring Them Bells," included some fun audience participation in which seven audience members were brought on stage to portray the characters in the song.
There were only two small shortcomings in the concert. The first was his only serviceable performance of a medley of songs by Billy Joel, which he sang because he mentioned that before he wanted to be an actor he wanted to be a rock star; the pop/rock music and lyrics didn't sit exactly right with his singing voice. And second, he didn't sing any songs from the show he won his Tony for, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, and it seemed an odd choice not to include at least a short medley of the songs he sang in that musical, especially since they are all songs from well-known shows.
He did, however, include a wonderful song by William Finn called "I Am There" from the revue Elegies that was a moving tribute to his late father, and he ended the concert on a comic high with a medley of brief snippets from songs from over a dozen shows that were sung by characters he said he wasn't allowed to play. Some of these were roles from The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, and Cats (Grizabella).
Alexander was backed by pianist Todd Schroeder and his wife Carrie Schroeder on vocals, along with strong support from the Arizona Musicfest orchestra.
Jason Alexander performed at the Arizona Musicfest on January 23, 2023. Information for upcoming Arizona Musicfest concerts can be found at www.azmusicfest.org.