BWW Reviews: Euan Morton Returns to Center Stage and Wows his Audience
Readers may recall my review of Euan Morton's incredible Cabaret performance at Center Stage last season. It was such a big sensation, Center Stage decided to bring him back and what a smart decision that was.
Thursday evening before a large and appreciate audience, Morton demonstrated not only his incredible vocal prowess but had the forum to have his audiences in stitches with his clever extemporaneous diatribes ranging from commenting on Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and her dress made of meat. He suggested he would return wearing a suit made of Baltimore seafood, crab was mentioned. Then he asked about local fish. So he added "rockfish". He discussed the last female Brit to win Wimbledon (Virginia Wade), and taking on Baltimore slogans. Think about it. He commented, "Baltimore - the City That Reads..." He then paused. Reads what? Is it Bill O'Reilly or ... Very clever.
He took on the city's slogan "Believe". "What actually does that mean?" he asked. When he was asked by a woman in the audience "Believe in What?". He immediately came back with "YOU".
He mentioned the nickname "Charm City" and inquired why Baltimore is known as "Mobtown" (there is even a Mobtown Theater). Even I learned something. That name stems from the Confederate sympathizers who made up mobs during the Civil War in Baltimore.
Between the hilarious banter, Morton sang his heart out and the audience showed their appreciation. The sweat was apparent on his face.
Fresh from his incredible performance in Chess at the Signature Theatre in Virginia (see myinterview and review elsewhere on this site), Morton sang 12 numbers accompanied by his wonderful pianist, Bryan Reeder. They've worked together for four years and it shows.
I found it interesting that at least half of these numbers were originally sung by women. Opening the evening was the lovely "La Vie En Rose" from the wonderful French film about Edith Piaf. This was followed by a lovely Scottish ballad "Ae Fond Kiss", a waltz.
Then came a trio of numbers from the male part of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ABBA, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. You may recognize them for the mega Broadway hit Mamma Mia! Morton just finished his superb role as Anatoly Sergievsky in the Signature Theatre' s production of Chess and sang the wonderful "Anthem" (often used by male actors auditioning for musicals). "Didn't you love my Russian accent" he joked. This was followed by the ABBA song I'm never heard before, "I Wonder (Departure). Finally he sang a song from the Swedish musical Christina, "You Have to Be There". He became familiar with it after hearing Alice Ripley singing the number at Town Hall. The show based on the Vilhelm Moberg's "The Emigrants" was first performed in Sweden in 1995.
Morton is a fan of Karen Carpenter and sang the moving "Love me For What I Am".
Then there two numbers from the canon of Joni Mitchell - the lovely "River" and the gigantic hit "Both Sides Now" which Morton said he was told he had to sing.
Cindy Lauper's "True Colors" was given a great arrangement.
From his four year old wonderful CD New Clear came Leonard Cohen's triumphant 'Hallelujah" where Morton really gave his belt an opportunity to shine. (Visit www.euanmorton.com to hear clips from his CD.)
The Scottish "Auld Lang Syne" (based on the 1788 poem by Scotsman Robert Burns)was turned into an audience participation event with the follow spot (successfully handled by Shannon Steere) catching Morton singing along with various audience members (including this correspondent).
The evening ended with "Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye". A fitting way to end an incredibly entertaining evening.
Complimenting the event was effective lighting by Lesley Boeckman and terrific sound by Amy Wodel.
Center Stage should however have a program for their Cabaret performances. Audiences I believe would appreciate reading about Morton's long and successful background and everyone else involved. Having this information displayed on a lobby on the wall I don't think is sufficient.
Here's another idea. Why not make a double-header available. Have Morton perform Saturday around 6 p.m. Audiences could then take a short break before heading into the Pearlstone Theater to see the great production of the musical The Wiz. Two shows in one evening. What do you think?
If you can make it, don't miss this superb performer in the lovely and intimate Head Theater.
Morton continues Friday and Saturday evenings Oct. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinee, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. For tickets call 310-332-0033. Visit www.centerstage.org/cabaret to learn more about the series.
For comments, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo (Bottom): Euan Morton and his Baltimore family by Charles Shubow