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Review: PURE YANNI Takes Up Residence at The Lunt-Fontanne

"This is an unscripted show. I have no idea what I'm going to do," the internationally acclaimed composer and pianist Yanni tells his audience at the outset of his debut Broadway performance.

Review:  PURE YANNI Takes Up Residence at The Lunt-Fontanne
Yanni (Photo: Joan Marcus)

His weeklong gig at the Lunt-Fontanne, titled PURE YANNI, is the second production for the theatre's In Residence On Broadway series, which is keeping the box office moving until TINA, the new Tina Turner musical, starts previewing in October. Earlier this month, Morrissey claimed the stage and future engagements will star Regina Spektor, Mel Brooks, Criss Angel, the Beatles tribute band Rain and Barry Manilow.

Born in Greece, the University of Minnesota psychology graduate is a self-taught musician whose work has been generally regarded as New Age, though he's been known to shun categorization, citing numerous classical, jazz, rock and world music influences.

Though the evening begins with a video noting Yanni's rise in popularity with full orchestra performances at landmarks such as the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal and The Forbidden City, PURE YANNI is a decidedly modest affair; simply him and a piano on a bare stage, with his performance followed by a cameraperson who captures him at different angles for a large upstage projection screen.

House lights were kept on for just about all of Tuesday night's opening performance and the two-hour long show was about evenly divided between music and answering questions from the audience.

Naturally, the house was filled with his fans and most of those who were called upon began with effusive praise (one fellow mentioned "I just got married and my entire wedding was your music.") before asking fairly standard questions such as, "What inspired your love of music?", "How did it go when you told your parents you were going into music instead of psychology?" and "When is your next book coming out?"

Review:  PURE YANNI Takes Up Residence at The Lunt-Fontanne
Yanni (Photo: Joan Marcus)

At one point the audience was told that a section of the show was being live-streamed on the Internet, with people around the world setting their alarms to wake up so they can submit questions to be read and answered. One was from a fan in Aleppo who Yanni told us was the first woman in her village to ride a motor bike.

Yanni's answers to questions were fill with fairly standard, though surely heartfelt sentiments like "Never give up on your dreams," "Music is pure emotion" and how we are all one people and if you look at the earth from above you see no borders.

Tuesday night's musical selections, mostly soft unobtrusive melodies, included, "To Take... To Hold," "The End of August," "Marching Season," "Butterfly Dance," "Nostalgia," "In The Mirror" and "Felitsa," named for his mother.

As advised from the start, the show did seem rather unplanned and there rarely was any connection between what he was speaking about and what he played.

At one point he just sat at the piano and wondered aloud, "What can I play you next?" After numerous shouts of suggestions, he turned to the crowd and quipped, "That was a rhetorical question, by the way."

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