On Friday March 9 and Sunday March 11, debonair Broadway tenor Brian Stokes Mitchell graced the stage of the Broad in Santa Monica for an intimate concert of standard tunes and Broadway favorites. Called by some critics the last Broadway leading man, Mitchell, or Stokes, as he prefers to be called, is handsome and possesses an astoundingly rich vocal instrument, but it is his warm, up-close charismatic approach to the material that is most winning. He makes you feel like you are at home with him, his wife and eight year-old son, as he shares some of his favorite tunes and embarrassing moments onstage. There's the time when he was performing Kiss Me Kate on Broadway and forgot the lyrics to "Where Is the Life That Late I Led". He looked down into the orchestra pit for assistance from musical director Paul Gemignani, who looked back at him and shrugged. Stokes proceeded in our presence to essay the number reading the lyrics from a tiny notebook which he pulled from the breast pocket of his suit jacket. It is this type of small human touch that characterizes the man and makes him vulnerable and totally likeable.
Highlights of the evening included: from his unforgettable production of South Pacific with Reba McEntire, "Some Enchanted Evening", a fun Gershwin medley of "s' Wonderful", "I Got Rhythm", " Fascinatin' Rhythm" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay". Other roles that he revisited were Javert with "Stars" from Les Mis, de Becque "This Nearly Was Mine", "Hello Young Lovers", and Miguel de Cervantes with "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha, and from Ragtime, Coalhouse with "On the Wheels of a Dream". On a lighter note there was a delightfully uplifting Antonio Carlos Jobim tune entitled "Waters of March". A splendid actor, Stokes showed his extreme versatility by doing the eleven o'clock "This Nearly Was Mine" as Emile de Becque and then switched gears to a little awkward boy of 13, himself a husky, shy seventh grader at a dance sitting by the punch bowl and eating chips with "It Ain't Easy Being Green". Musical director for the evening was Jeffrey W. Colella at the piano; on drums: Rod Harbour; bass: Christopher Colangelo, and on woodwinds: Robert Sheppard, primo musicians one and all.
Brian Stokes Mitchell is a class act in every way. As well as actor, singer, raconteur, he has also written a children's book Lights On Broadway and recorded a Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty song "I Was Here" for its accompanying CD, which tells richly of the love and commitment of an actor for his craft. Such is Stokes, who lives and breathes eveything he does...to the utmost perfection.