Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Christine Ebersole with Seth Rudetsky
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of The King and I and Rob Kapilow: What Makes It Great? Finishing the Hat: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim


Christine Ebersole
Photo Courtesy of Christine Ebersole
Early in her career, two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole served as both an understudy and a last minute replacement for the female lead of two big Broadway musicals. Last week, Ebersole found herself back in this position when she took over for Laura Benanti, who had to bow out due to a family emergency, for a concert with Seth Rudetsky at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Benanti was actually taking over for the originally announced Kristin Chenoweth, who had to cancel due to a TV conflict. So, Ebersole was the replacement for the replacement.

Even after enduring a nightmarish 12-hour journey to get to Arizona from New York due to having to change to a later flight after mechanical problems on their first flight, Ebersole was in spectacular voice and entertained the audience with stories of her past, both comical and serious.

Ebersole won Tonys for co-starring in the revival of 42nd Street and for starring in Grey Gardens. An upbeat "Lullaby of Broadway" from 42nd Street kicked the concert off in high fashion. Rudetsky stated that they both were so exhausted from their trip that they had been talking backstage that they didn't think they'd be able to get through the concert. While Rudetsky was a little more subdued from his usual manic, fast paced style of speech, the night was still full of plenty of comical quips from Rudetsky and some great backstage stories from Ebersole.

These tales included her audition for the 1980 Broadway revival of Camelot where she found herself face to face with Richard Burton. She stated that she was freaking out on the inside while trying to remain as cool as possible on the exterior. She was cast as Guinevere opposite Burton in that production and sang a sweet and soaring version of "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" from that show. She was also asked to audition in order to quickly step in to serve as the understudy for the lead in On the 20th Century. She ended up taking over for the parts in both of these shows with just a week's rehearsal, something she said she was too young to realize was insane and foolish.

Ebersole played the violin in her school orchestra but said ,once she saw some of the girls from her school in the show, she realized she'd much rather be on stage. Her rendition of "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" from Finian's Rainbow, the show she said her school did that made her put down her violin, was romantic and lush. Ebersole followed that with a superb version of Stephen Sondheim and Mary Rodgers' comic masterpiece "The Boy from..."

While Ebersole had a fairly successful early career on Broadway, she moved to Los Angeles and only found moderate success there. A couple of shows brought her back to New York, one of which was a musical version of the classic film Paper Moon. But, like so many other musicals, even though they had a marquee for the show up at the Marriott Marquis theatre on Broadway, Paper Moon closed out of town and never made it to New York. The marquee came down and Ebersole moved back to L.A. She expertly gave us a taste for that lost musical when she performed her comical solo from the show, "I Do What I Can (With What I Got)."

She commented that it wasn't until she won her second Tony for Grey Gardens that she finally felt she didn't have to prove anything anymore. Christine delivered two back to back songs from that show, "Around the World" and "Will You?" in superb voice that perfectly showed off her ability to portray the two vastly different characters she played in that show.

Throughout, Rudetsky's expertise behind the piano as well as in asking Ebersole some pointed questions added plenty of fun moments to the evening. Several other classic showtunes also received excellent renditions, including "The Music that Makes Me Dance" from Funny Girl, "Bill" from Show Boat, which she dedicated to her husband Bill, as well as one of the best versions of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" I've ever heard.

The final date for the last show in this year's season of "Broadway @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts" is on April 7 with Vanessa Williams. Hopefully, the Scottsdale Center for the Arts will continue this series next season as a way to bring incredibly talented Broadway performers to the Phoenix area.

Christine Ebersole performed with Seth Rudetsky at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 17th 2018. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.


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