BWW Review: MARIO FRANGOULIS at Rose Theater Jazz At Lincoln Center
Mario Frangoulis has always defied categorization. After all, what do you call a singer who is equally at home in rock, pop, jazz, latin, swing, Broadway, classical and opera?
In a word: brilliant.
His concert at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center Jazz on Monday night showed why he's not merely the best-selling artist in Greece, but a phenomenon around the world. One would be hard pressed to find another singer in the world who can perform a setlist including the Moody Blues, the Scorpions, Mecano, Bernstein, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Piaf, Randy Newman, Theodorakis and a host of other international composers? Accompanied by a tight band of five musicians, Frangoulis sang this remarkably diverse set in no less than five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and Greek!
The evening's first set favored more pop-influenced selections, beginning with a number from the movie Moulin Rouge, Come What May, a ravishing Italian language version of Nights in White Satin, and the evergreen masterpiece by Mecano, Hijo de la Luna. singer set the tone for the evening by performing each of the first five songs in a different language.
After a brief intermission, Frangoulis immediately plunged into several familiar Broadway numbers, the ubiquitous, Music of the Night from "Phantom" and a delightfully light and playful take on Something's Coming from "West Side Story." His next selection, possibly the musical highlight of the evening, was one of his signature numbers, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables from "Les Miserables." Frangoulis performed the role of Marius in London for three years to great acclaim early in his career, and his take on this modern standard is unquestionably the highwater mark for renditions of the song. He does what so many classical and opera singers cannot do, he sings a Broadway showtune in the proper Broadway fashion, while retaining all the power and the passion of his operatic training, resulting in a shatteringly powerful rendition of the song.
Next, Frangoulis welcomed his very special guest, the Tony-winning, Frances Ruffelle to join him. Ruffelle, who created the role of Eponine in both the original London and Broadway casts of Les Miz, sang a charming duet with Frangoulis of the Edith Piaf classic, Les Trois Cloches (the Three Clocks).
Then, Ruffelle fearlessly took on another legend, doing a firey rendition of Barbara Streisand's Gotta Move, a notoriously tricky and difficult number. However, she navigated the song's multiple key changes and two vastly different moods with no trouble whatsoever. Kudos!
The Greek contingent in the audience exploded when Frangoulis did two popular Greek songs, Ton Eafto Tou Paidi, and the timeless Manos Hadjidakis ballad, Thalassa Plateia.
Vincero Perdero, Frangoulis breakthrough number from 2003's Sometimes I Dream, was the evening's final selection and showed the singer in fine voice (one might say he sounded even fresher that at the start of the evening). Frangoulis possesses a powerful, high-mid-range belt and full-voiced high end that no one on Broadway today can touch, yet his singing remains lyrical and unexaggerated at all times. His loving audience rewarded him with a well-deserved standing ovation.
It is difficult to categorize Mario Frangoulis, but his powerful voice, musical intelligence and extraordinary range are truly remarkable, and his infectious charm and energy make his performances something magical.
He is at the Théâtre Maisonneuve in Montreal on Thursday, November 9th, and at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday, November 11th. If you have the chance to see one of the performances, don't miss it.
- Peter Danish