Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Russ Lorenson: As Long As I'm Singin'
Also see Richard's reviews of Matilda and Call Me Miss Birds Eye: A Celebration of Ethel Merman, Eddie's reviews of West Side Story and Hay Fever and Patrick's reviews of The Pirates of Penzance and Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter
Russ Lorenson, who is billed as "San Francisco's Favorite Crooner," recently returned to Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko with his tribute to Bobby Darin called As Long As I'm Singin'. Russ's technique has origins in "crooning" and he does have a velvety quality on ballads; however, in this almost two-hour production he broke out pitch-perfect resonance with such tunes as "Splish Splash," "Mack the Knife," and "Once in a Lifetime."
The show opened with a video on both sides of the stage showing a clip of Ed Sullivan introducing Bobby Darin, and then Russ Lorenson entered the stage looking very impeccable establishing a bond with the audience. He opened the show with an upbeat arrangement of Newley and Bricusse's "Once in a Lifetime," segued into Darin's big pop hit "Splish, Splash," which was written by the singer in 1958, and then went into "Queen of the Hop" and finally "Dream Lover" also writer by Darin.
Between the songs Russ Lorenson told the sold out audience interesting facts about the legendary singer who wanted to be the greatest entertainer in the world. The dynamic entertainer and musical chameleon had Top Ten hits in rock 'n' roll, jazz, pop, country, and folk. Russ talked about Bobby's ill-fated romance with Connie Francis and meeting Sandra Dee on his first film for Warner Brothers called Come September. He later married the actress, which ended up miserably. There were great stories about his later travels with Robert Kennedy during the campaign for the nomination for President and how Darin was devastated when Kennedy was assassinated. He left the public eye following this terrible event, living in Big Sur for almost a year in a trailer. The singer died of heart failure at age 37.
Russ Lorenson had great backup from Kelly Park on Piano, Mike Bordelon on bass/guitar, Kent Bryson on drums, Brendan Getzell on guitar, Colleen Callan on trombone, Tony Malfatti on sax/clarinet/flute and Rich Armstrong. Several songs were vocally backed up by Jenny Coker, Jennifer Haber, and Jessica Coker who were harmoniously energizing. Kelly Parks also got to shine with his vibrant vocal cords on Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer's "If I Had My Druthers" from Li'l Abner. There was a country western phase for Bobby in 1962 and Russ crooned the songs "Things," "You're the Reason I'm Living," and "Eighteen Yellow Roses" all written by Darin. Russ ended his show with a heartfelt arrangement of "The Curtain Falls."
For information on upcoming shows at Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko, visit www.hotelnikkosf.com/feinsteins.