Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Hector Coris' "Our Own Kind of Universe"
Scottsdale Musical Theater Company

Also see Gil's reviews of Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and More and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Hector Coris
Hector Coris moved to Phoenix from New York City a few years ago and basically hit the ground running in local community theatre. A gifted singer, actor, and director, he won the prestigious Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) Award for Male Vocalist of the Year before leaving New York, and just recently won a 2014 AriZoni Award for directing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Hale Centre Theatre. He has appeared in numerous shows with the Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, most recently starring as Max in their production of The Producers, and he also opens this week in Hale's The Man Who Came to Dinner in the comical cameo part of Banjo. But it is the cabaret scene that Coris seems to be really passionate about. He and SMTC Executive Producer David Hock are trying to bring the world of cabaret to Phoenix. Their first offering in a proposed cabaret series happened this past Monday at the Tempe Center for the Arts and featured Coris in a stellar evening of story songs that also included a few numbers from his gifted Producers co-star, Marina Blue Jarrette.

Jarrette got the evening off on the perfect note with three songs by relatively new composer Adam Gwon. Considering she is still in college (at ASU), her superb vocal prowess, clear diction and enunciation, and connection to the lyrics of these songs is better than many cabaret performers twice her age. Gwon's lyrics and music are fresh and immediate and tell a succinct story about the characters, so they work perfectly well for cabaret. Jarrette sang the hell out of Gwon's "Uncharted Territory" as well as "Don't Wanna Be Here" from his Ordinary Days musical, and performed a stellar version of "Running." When Coris took the stage he commented that Jarrette is extremely talented and I couldn't agree more.

Coris' set also included some relatively newer material, and didn't just focus on musical theatre songs or songs from the American Songbook, as many cabaret performers tend to do. The song list was a perfect balance of ballads, story songs, comic numbers, and a couple of musical theatre songs that all swirled around the title of the evening, "Our Own Kind of Universe." And while some of the songs did reference the "world" and Hector did mention how he likes to sit and observe other people, there wasn't a clear overriding theme to the evening—but that wasn't a problem since the material he chose spoke perfectly about the various people who make up the universe in their own unique way. He said that he loves to talk about people, and he knows we all do as it makes us feel better to vent about others, and he likes the cabaret setting as it allows him to sing songs about other people.

There were many highlights in the song list. Christine Lavin's "Another New York Afternoon" is a perfectly sweet modern homage to the city that never sleeps and the many strange yet sincere people who live there, and Coris' vocals painted clear pictures of the people in the song. A lovely pairing of Kander and Ebb's "Married" from Cabaret and Sondheim's "Could I Leave You?" from Follies showed the two sides to what many people are fighting over the right to have these days. Coris' biting, staccato delivery of Sondheim's lyrics was excellent, with musical director Curtis Moeller's arrangements effectively using the main notes of the Follies song from the beginning of the pairing to provide a sense of expectation and misdirection.

Two excellent humorous songs showed Coris' sublime comic abilities: Zoë Lewis' "Snow White" and Joe Iconis' "Helen's In Skin Flicks (Now)." The Iconis song has a sweet nature underneath funny lyrics, which also allowed Coris to display his soft side underneath the humor. Coris delivered a lively take on "Lovesick" from David Yazbek's flop Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. "He Comes Home Tired" by David Friedman and Muriel Robinson evokes a long ago time of a spouse waiting for their husband to come home in a poignant way, with Coris' delivery of the lyrics perfectly painting a vibrant picture. A rousing delivery of Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest, and Mort Shuman's "Jacky," from the musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, allowed Coris to show his vocal prowess.

John Bucchino's "Playbill" is a song that it seemed everyone was doing a few years back, both in cabaret shows and on vocal recordings. But it's nice to hear the song again, especially considering how Coris managed to turn the song into an emotional journey that segued nicely into a stirring delivery of Harry Nilsson's "Life Line." "Why?" by David Byrne is a joyful song about "our own kind of universe" and how things happen by fate—or do they?—and Coris' simple yet clear take on the lyrics was full of passion. He ended the show with a driving version of "World, Take Me Back" from the musical Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman.

Throughout the evening there was a constant sense of Coris' clear vocal abilities. Never once did it feel that he was pushing the boundaries to hit a note, as they all flowed naturally. After this successful evening I sincerely hope that Scottsdale Musical Theater continues this cabaret series to offer a different type of theatrical experience in the Valley.

The Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's presentation of Hector Coris' "Our Own Kind of Universe" played on April 6th, 2015, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. You can get information on their upcoming production of Gypsy, which plays from August 20th to the 23th, 2015, at Tickets can be ordered by calling 602-909-4215.

Photo: Jessica Cole

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix