In 1937, at the age of 38, George Gershwin died of a brain tumor. He left behind 10 orchestral works, 2 solo piano pieces, 2 operas, one London musical, 16 Broadway musicals, and five film scores.
Light Opera Works, no stranger to lovely tunes, wanted to commemorate this Gershwin legacy and does so in their new concert review “Gershwin’s Greatest Hits”.
Director George Andrew Wolff knows how to showcase the five highly talented singers who regaled us with 38 songs acted out with lots of shtick to keep the action moving.
Even for those of us who are not students of Gershwin, many of these catchy songs are very familiar such as “S’Wonderful”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Strike Up the Band”, “I Got Rhythm”, “Embraceable You” and more.
Martin L. Woods’ performance of songs from "Porgy and Bess" was as good as you will ever hear. For those of us who have heard him at the Lyric or with Chicago Opera Theater it was a delight to hear his mellifluous voice take on lighter fare.
Colette Todd, who will next star in Light Opera Works “Annie Get Your Gun” , seems to have Broadway in her DNA, drawing us in with her wide smile as she sang, whether it was in trio with David Schlumpf and Martin Woods in “They All Laughed”, or strumming her fingers on Martin Woods’ head as she sang “Bidin’ My Time”.
Young singer Sarah Lynn Kelly hit her stride with a comic rendition of “By Strauss”.
David Schlumpf was the master of top hat and cane and other smooth dance moves from the Gershwin era, making entrances from the back to sing “Stairway to Paradise” among other songs.
Jazz singer Sophie Grimm was magnetic, whether she was toodling unexpectedly on a trumpet, skat singing, or leading the ensemble in “I Got Rhythm”.
Yes, “An American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue” were of course included. It did seem that this performance was a bit marred by unexpected resonance from the onstage drums or some other acoustic imbalance that troubled a bit throughout.
If you love Gershwin this is your show. If you want an evening of feel-good music this too is your show. If you slink away from borderline corny you won’t enjoy this true-to-Gershwin’s time tribute.
If you can’t make this show do make a mental note of these performers. They’ve got the goods and are well worth tracking as their careers take them forward.
This is a short run of October 4 – 13, 2013.
The schedule of remaining shows is:
Saturday, October 5, 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, October 6, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, October 9, 2 p.m.
Friday, October 11, 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 12, 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday October 13, 2 p.m.
For information on this show or the upcoming Light Opera Works production of “Annie Get Your Gun” call 847 920 5360 or visit the Light Opera Works website.
Performance photos: Chris Ocken