BWW Review: I LEFT MY HEART: A SALUTE TO THE MUSIC OF TONY BENNETT is Full of Rhythm, Music and More at The Winter Park Playhouse
Tony Bennett is an icon. He has helped write music history and manages to reach generation after generation of fans. So, what is his secret? Why is his music still relevant today and how do audience members continue to connect with him after all these years? I LEFT MY HEART: A SALUTE TO THE MUSIC OF TONY BENNETT, opened at The Winter Park Playhouse on Friday night, and helps to enlighten us with the answers to these questions and the magic of Tony's success. This show is everything we could want in a Tony revue, with hot fudge and sprinkles on top.
Despite the title, I LEFT MY HEART isn't just for Tony Bennett devotees, it's for all crooner fans, jazz followers and show tune lovers. With hits from Stranger in Paradise and I Got Rhythm to The Best is Yet to Come and Lullaby Of Broadway, the music never disappoints. This is the perfect show for the intimate Winter Park Playhouse, with the year of 2016 marking its 14th year in production. I LEFT MY HEART is concert style, with a loungey blue set, thoughtful lighting and easy transitions between numbers. The ambiance allows the audience members to quickly get comfortable for a trip down blissful memory lane, starting with the opening song, Steppin' Out With My Baby. The show features three Playhouse veterans, Bert Rodriguez, Victor Souffrant and Deejay Young.
The harmonies from the three tenors are exquisite almost every single moment of the show. Exceptional trio songs include, It Don't Mean A Thing and The Music Never Ends. The show is a perfect length of about 105 minutes, broken up nicely into clever sets and including a 15 minute intermission. I was pleasantly surprised with the bits and pieces of trivia sprinkled throughout the show, educating us on Tony's life and career. Did you know that in the 1960s Tony recorded approximately three albums every year? How about the fact that Tony struggled as a singing waiter after fighting in World War II? I always enjoy a bit of education with my entertainment.
Bert Rodriguez is fun all night and comfortable as a fresh set of sheets on stage. He gets creative with some of the classic choreography and keeps us dancing in our seats. Rodriguez sounds impeccable in his best number of the night, Let's Face the Music and Dance. Victor Souffrant enjoys connecting with the audience and helps to bring us sweet, sweet melodies in the Crazy Rhythm set. His stand out solo number is Where do I Begin in Act I. Souffrant is one of those lovable personalities and the audience seems to really enjoy his vocals. With great performances from all three tenors, it is Deejay Young who almost caused me to leave my heart in the Playhouse on Friday night. He embodies pizazz, smooth vocals and the essence of a star. As Time Goes By is his greatest hit of the night, but he steals the spotlight in many of the trios as well. Young is a natural performer and his voice puts you in a trancelike state, wondering how a person is gifted with such talent. He makes it look almost too easy, just as Tony has done for decades.
Roy Alan takes on the roles of both director and choreographer in this show and he never lets us down. He captures the audience with clever movement choices in Rags to Riches and Puttin' On the Ritz, my favorite number of the night for many reasons. This song really showcases the Playhouse music trio, including Ned Wilkinson, Sam Forrest and Chris Leavy, who are all on stage for the entire production. This is an excellent choice from Alan and the audience enjoys watching the talented musicians as they work hard to create the sounds that sweep us away throughout the night. A.J. Garcia nailed the costumes, puttin on the ritz in both Acts with tuxes and then svelte suits.
Mr. Bennett has a sold-out show coming up in Orlando on March 9. The good news is that you don't need a ticket to Tony's March performance to enjoy his live classic music. I LEFT MY HEART is playing from now until February 27 at The Winter Park Playhouse with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2:00pm and select Wednesday, Friday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Call 407-645-0145 or visit The Winter Park Playhouse's website, http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org for tickets and more information.
Photo Credit: Oxley Photography: (Left to Right) Bert Rodriguez, Victor Souffrant, Deejay Young
From This Author April Montgomery