BWW Reviews: Michele Lee's 'Catch the Light' at the CA International Theatre Festival
Michele Lee brought her acclaimed night club act Catch the Light to the California InterNational Theatre Festival @ Founder's Hall in Calabasas for one night only Saturday July 24. Although suffering from a bout of laryngitis, Lee proved the consummate trouper, doing about half of her show and substituting a few other songs to suit the lower registers of her voice. Lending a helping hand was Festival Director actress/singer Linda Purl who sang 2 sets of tunes, thus giving Lee some rest time in the wings. Ah, the unpredictability of live theatre! Sometimes it's wondrous.
The evening turned into a fantastic double bill as both ladies gave their all for the sake of art. Highlights of Lee's show included: "Pure Imagination", "I Believe In You" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, "The Boy Next Door", "Nobody Does It Like Me" from her Broadway hit Seesaw, a heartwarming "Time After Time", as Lee talked about her son David Farentino and Joni Mitchell's stunning "A Case of You", as she bemoaned the loss of love. There was also a sweet "I've Got a Crush on You" dueting with accompanist Ron Abel and her wonderful finale "It Started with a Dream". The theme of Lee's show is the quest for imagination, that her father (a famous Hollywood makeup artist) instilled in her as a little girl, when he played a game, holding a pocket mirror in his hand every night and letting the glare from it bounce on her bedroom wall, as she tried to catch the light. Lee is a magnificent actress who digs deep for the meaning of every lyric and comes up shining. She gives 150% and is nothing short of sheer heaven.
Purl grew up in Japan and extoled the virtues of her father (a chemical engineer), who, like Lee's father, instilled in her a love of the arts. Purl's father's favorite music was the Big Band era of the 30s and 40s. In fact, he used to dance her around the living room as a little girl to the tunes of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, which infused her selections in the concert. They included: "The Best Is Yet to Come", "At Last", "Sentimental Journey", "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" "Too Close For Comfort", a lovely "I'll Be Seeing You", "Out of This World" and a lullaby to her 15 year-old son "This Time Tomorrow" from her Broadway run in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Purl, like Lee, is a fabulous actress who invests her music with everything she's got.
The evening was a double dose of joy capping off the second successful season of the California InterNational Theatre Festival in Calabasas.