It’s Oscar season; everyone loves classic films. Eric Michael Gillett launched a new bi-monthly series with a line-up of cabaret artists singing from a movie songbook, Sunday evening, at the Laurie Beechman
Theatre. Uneven, but not bad for its maiden voyage, this light-hearted series, which showcased his students, is bound to improve. The musically savvy and versatile Gillett, who opened the show with a bold duet with Melanie Vaughan, “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from “State Fair,” plans to add multimedia to the event in the future, and hopefully, he will tighten the production as well.
Gillett and his musical director, the talented Jeff Cubeta, followed that with a whimsical “I’m Wishing” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” Shana Farr sang a heartfelt “Star!” and “Somewhere in
Time.” Leah Jennings exhibited not only good voice but excellent phrasing in “It Goes Like It Goes.” And Valerie Lemon’s Marvin Hamlisch medley – “Life Is What You Make It,” “The Eyes of Love” and “The Girl Who Used to Be Me”– was moving– after all, she traveled across the country for a dozen years as the late composer’s symphony soloist. There was something for everyone in this production which was a bit long but certainly brought back memories for any film buff from Marissa Mulder’s “Moon River” to Fosse dancer Sonja Stuart’s “Where The Boys Are” originally written for Connie Francis.
Gillett’s musical selections were strong, including “Wherever Love Takes Me.” He shares his vast historical knowledge of the background of each song splattered with fascinating trivia –Radio City Music Hall had to replace its velvet seats after the Snow White run– but his delivery lost some of its impact and credibility when he read from his notes at a rapid sing song pace. His unprepared talk is far more interesting.
The show revealed the concept of the changing musicals in film. Gillett attributed that to “Dr. Dolittle,” the film he blames for the death of the film musical in the States. Sheera Ben-David sang “When I Look in Your Eyes” from that film. It added to the production that Gillett included some forgotten movie themes
(“Sophie’s Choice”) as well as songs that ended on the cutting room floor as well as those that endured beyond the films for which they were written. The concept is a good one. And Gillett, in his closing number, “New York, New York,” had near perfect phrasing. The production ended on a high note showing his amazing showmanship.
A version of this special movie series will be presented in alternate months at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. For information, call 212-695-6909.