BWW Reviews: Leslie Uggams Delights Audience at The Apollo
Leslie Uggams dazzled the audience at The Apollo on Monday night, March 18th at 8:00 pm, in her one-woman, autobiographical musical performance, "Uptown/Downtown," which was part of the theater's annual celebration of Broadway. In the cabaret style show, she recounted her legendary career, which began with her first professional appearances at The Apollo Theater "uptown" in New York City when she was 9 years old, a career that would take her "downtown" to Broadway and "so many places in between."
Ms. Uggams was introduced to the audience by Apollo's president and CEO, Jonelle Procope, who expressed her appreciation and pleasure to have Ms. Uggams perform at The Apollo and serve as a member of the theater's board of directors.
The evening featured Ms. Uggams chronicling her rise to stardom by telling the audience about the many opportunities she had as a musical performer and the stars she worked with. As she charmed the audience with stories of her background, she sang the songs that captured the attention and imagination of her devoted fans throughout the years
Known as a star of stage and screen internationally, Uggums received the Tony and Theater World Awards for her Broadway role in "Hallelujah Baby." Yet, she traces her show business roots to singing at the The Apollo Theater as a child when it was owned by the Shiffman family. Speaking of the experience, she said, "It all started on that stage downstairs." And it was on The Apollo stage that she worked with such greats as Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billy Holliday. She affectionately remembered Jazz great, Louis Armstrong, calling him by a pet name, "Pops."
Starting the show with a medley of New York tunes, she continued to thrill the audience with a repertoire of songs that included Ella Fitzgerald's, "A-Tisket, A- Tasket." Leslie Uggams said that she "worshipped and adored" Dinah Washington, and sang Washington's "I Wanna Be Around."
With no breaks in her one woman show, Ms. Uggams flawless performance included the Doo-Wop hit "Up on the Roof," made famous by a group she recalled well, The Drifters. She told the audience how she fell in love with the show on Broadway "Porgy and Bess," which she saw multiple when her aunt was in the cast, and then treated the Apollo audience to a beautiful rendition of "Summertime."
Leslie Uggams show, "Uptown/Downtown," was directed by Michael Bush. Ms. Uggams was accompanied by a quintet of talented musicians led by Piano Conductor Don Rebic. The audience was thrilled to learn that Leslie Uggums will be returning to Broadway this fall starring in "Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Show." Ever beautiful, ever gracious, Ms. Uggams closed the show with an affectionate love song and the audience at The Apollo adored her all the more.
Photo Credit: Shahar Azran