In the rush of musical shows before the awards season, one finds a surfeit of entertainment. One thinks one is hearing performers sing. But what we are actually hearing are voices expanded by amplification, whether for Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” or Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in “War Paint.” Last night (May 1, 2017)at The Town Hall the audience was treated to the real thing—natural voices without mikes, or as creator/writer/director, host Scott Siegel likes to put it, “sound design by God.”
In this annual presentation of Broadway songs the way they used to be sung before the age of amplification set in there is a true test of vocal power, and the terrific array of singers came through dynamically, impressing us with what we are missing now. Farah Alvin started the fireworks when her voice rang out with “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret.” It didn’t take long for a show-stopper to turn up--Klea Blackhurst singing “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” from “Annie Get Your Gun.” (National Rifle Association take note.)
And what male voices! Douglas Ladnier singing “One Alone” from “The Desert Song;” Ben Davis singing “Stars” from “Les Misérables;” Brian Charles Rooney with “Lover, Come Back to Me” from “The New Moon;” Jeremy Kushnier” with “Where I Want to Be” from “Chess;” Kyle Scatliffe’s “Big News” from “Parade;” Bill Daugherty’s saucy interpretation of Noël Coward’s “Mad About the Boy” from “Words and Music;” Max von Essen’s “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” from “An American in Paris,” in which he starred” and the man with the specially great voice, William Michals soaring with “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)” from “Man of La Mancha” after carefully putting on his make-up, including a twirled mustache, before the audience.
The lineup of women with knock-out voices produced one treat after another. Maxine Linehan, always impressive, gave fresh strength to “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from “Evita.” Jill Paice did a lovely interpretation of “Come to My Garden” from “The Secret Garden.” I particular enjoyed Jillian Louis singing “I (Who Have Nothing)” from the long-running “Smokey Joe’s Café.” Lesli Margherita delivered a fiery assault on men with “It’s All the Same” from “Man of La Mancha.” Emily Skinner tackled the difficult “Some People” anthem from “Gypsy.” The groundbreaking “Show Boat” has yielded many memorable songs, and Judy McLane excelled with the heartbreaker “Can’t Help Lovin' That Man.”
There was beauty in the array of duets, affording the opportunity for natural-voiced expression of romantic feelings, as with Erin Davie and Ben Davis singing to each other “All the Things You Are” from “Very Warm for May,” Jillian Louis and Doulas Ladnier wringing emotion from “If I Loved You” from “Carousel” and Farah Alvin and Brian Charles Rooney extracting meaning from “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” from “Beautiful.”
After a while with a program like this one forgets that nothing was amplified, as all gets to seem so very natural. As a kicker, the show ended with singers from the Broadway By the Year Chorus assembled to perform “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line.”
At times my attention wandered to watch the musicians led by musical director Ross Patterson at the piano, Randy Landau on bass and Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf on cello. In addition to their playing with such expertise for so diverse a program, they often smiled with pleasure at some of the singing feats that they obviously appreciated. Scott paid tribute to them, as well as amid his assorted thank you notes to assistant director and stage manager Rick Hinkson, assistant stage manager Joe Burke and production assistant Holly Cruz. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed May 2, 2017.