Baritones Unbound Review-A Symphony of Great Voices

Wunderkind impresario Hershey Felder has done it again! His production, “Baritones Unbound”, playing at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted through January 3rd is a rollicking success and a whole lot of fun. Doubtlessly one of the best things Chicago has seen this or any season, and directed by David Dower, this is a celebration and explication of the history of the baritone voice from it’s roots in  opera through modern musicals to rock and roll. We are taken on a whirlwind trip from Gregorian Chant to Sinatra and Elvis, from Mozart, Verdi and Wagner to Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Baritones on stage

This beautifully performed and produced songfest , written by Marc Kudisch, Merwin Foard and Timothy Splain, stars three supremely talented-and, it must be said- very attractive and charismatic men. Superstar baritones Mark Kudisch, Nathan Gunn and Mark Delavan perform a two- hour extravaganza of musical history and audience repartee accompanied by Timothy Splain, pianist extraordinaire and musical director.

The Pirates of Penzance

Kudisch, who is also the creator, is a three-time Tony award nominee, a 2008 winner of the Helen Hayes Award for outstanding Lead Actor in a musical, and a 2015 Special Drama Desk Award winner. He is an extremely versatile and compelling Broadway fixture; a consummate clown and athlete par excellence-he did the splits on stage- he wowed the audience with his hilarious Barber of Seville and joyous role as one of  “The Pirates of Penzance.” The robust, charming and deep-voiced Delavan, an operatic bass-baritone, is a Metropolitan Opera star, regional opera regular and star of “Sweeney Todd” on Broadway and has an incredibly deep range. Stunning Nathan Gunn is a professor of voice at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, was named general director of the Lyric Theater at Illinois in 2013, and performs regularly around the world. While he is certainly noted for acting and vocal prowess, he is almost as famous for his physique, and has often been called a “barihunk”-he has said he prefers “hunkitone”. People Magazine listed him in 2008 as one of “the sexiest men alive”.

The Baritones perform Johnny Cash

The three played with and off each other to perfection. They each have a different voice and a different range. Together on a stage-set charmingly strewn with the accoutrements of opera- wigs, antiques, Turkish carpets and musical instruments,  they  share with the lucky audience their amazing stage presences, gorgeous voices in joint and several personae, and also inform us in detail about “the uncommon voice of the common man”. A baritone is one type of classical male singing voice with a vocal range between the bass and the tenor; it is the most common male voice, but the stars of  “Baritones Unbound” have anything but common voices. Indeed, they soared to lyrical heights on the stage of The Royal George.

Marc Delavan, Marc Kudisch and Nathan Gunn

Some of the more memorable performances included an astonishing three-part solo and melded rendition of “One Enchanted Evening”; a rousing and high-spirited selection from  “Man of La Mancha”-Delavan’s version of “Dulcinea” brought tears to the eyes while Gunn’s sweet solos could’ve melted butter; and an extremely lively and comical final selection of Johnny Cash hits. All in all, this was a great piece of entertainment!

Bari-hunk Nathan Gunn

This is a show that should not be missed; see it before it leaves!

 

More information on this and upcoming shows at The Royal George

All images courtesy of Chuck Osgood

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