Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Musical Short Cuts: Motown and Orpheus at Carnegie; Benanti at the Allen Room

A Tribute to the Music of Motown
February 9, 2012
Carnegie Hall, Seventh Avenue & 57th Street, New York, NY

With a show titled “A Tribute to the Music of Motown,” there’s no way anyone can’t have a good time. And the evening’s music director Ray Chew (left)--who also holds that exalted position on TV’s smash hit “American Idol”--has chosen a superb array of performers to sing many of the tunes he loved while he worked in his grandfather’s Harlem record store. There’s Martha Reeves, Melba Moore, Dionne Warwick, Bebe Winans and Boyz II Men, along with the promise of “very special surprise guests,” all of whom will be belting out the classics from Motown’s greatest years.

Paul Shaffer will also be on hand to, presumably, lead the house band through its paces, something that he does nightly on David Letterman’s show and at the annual Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame bash. Chew himself is looking forward to the performance: “As some might say, ‘those were the days.’ But for me, THIS is the day. And tonight is THE night.”

Orpheus with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
February 11, 2012
Carnegie Hall, Seventh Avenue & 57th Street, New York, NY

French piano man Jean-Yves Thibaudet (right) just came through town to play some stellar Gershwin at the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve bash. For this concert, Thibaudet teams with trumpeter Louis Hanzlik to perform Shostakovich’s extraordinary Concerto for Piano and Trumpet, with backing from the prime (and conductor-less) ensemble Orpheus.

The remainder of the concert is a typically eclectic Orpheus mix: the curtain raiser is Michael Tippett’s barely-heard Divertimento on Sellinger’s Round, while the second half of the program comprises Arthur Honegger’s lovely Pastorale d’Ete and Tchaikvsky’s sizzling Serenade for Strings.

American Songbook: Laura Benanti
February 11, 2012
The Allen Room, Time Warner Center, New York, NY

She won a Tony for her delectable turn as Rose Lee in Gypsy, showing that Laura Benanti (above) can hold her own against a dominating star turn by Patti Lupone. And if the NBC drama “The Playboy Club” was cancelled after only a few episodes, it wasn’t Benanti’s fault: as the show’s singing bunny, her onstage performance was easily each episode’s highlight.

For anybody unaware, this sublime Broadway star of musicals good and bad (Into the Woods, Nine, The Sound of Music, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) is also an accomplished comedienne, as her turns in Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play and Christopher Durang’s Why Torture Is Wrong....and the People Who Love Them can attest. So Benanti’s “American Songbook” appearance unsurprisingly combines her singing and storytelling talents.

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