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BWW Reviews: Broadway Unplugged

This week, Scott Siegel presented the ninth annual Broadway Unplugged concert, letting some of Broadway’s finest singers sing classic showtunes and new standards alike with no amplification at all, filling Town Hall with their pure, unaltered voices. Under Scott Coulter’s direction and Ross Patterson’s music direction (which made sure the band and the singers were always balanced, with no soundboard to help out), the music ranged from fun and funny to poignant and heartbreaking.

While not all of the singers could fill the spacious Town Hall with their natural voices, all were able to bring plenty of emotion and power to their songs, and all had moments that should make them proud. Here are a few highlights of the evening in no particular order:

* Julia Murney sang a sweet and lovely “White Christmas,” and asked the audience to join in for the second chorus in support of victims of Hurricane Sandy and anyone else who needed some emotional support. Her voice seemed the softest of everyone in the concert, but she made the song (and “The World Goes ‘Round” in Act I) through pure energy and will.

*Barbara Walsh seemed to struggle with the higher notes of “Back to Before” from Ragtime, but, like Murney, made the song work on its emotional power.

* Cheyenne Jackson, who has sung “Feeling Good” in several concerts (once backed by the New York Pops), proved that he didn’t need a microphone to make the number white-hot and thrilling. (Honestly, after this, he may very well be able to claim the song as his personal property. It was that damn good.)

* Kelli Rabke, who starred on Broadway in the 1994 revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, sang a winsome and energetic “Waiting for Life to Begin” from Once on this Island. (Glad to have her back belting showtunes in a big New York theater.)

* Michael Winther sang a lovely and surprisingly introspective “Love Can’t Happen” from Grand Hotel. Rather than perform it as a powerhouse ballad, Winther focused on the lyrics and found some impressive depth in them. (One gets the feeling that David Carroll would have been pleased.)

* Natalie Toro, who starred in the 20th anniversary tour of Evita, sang a medley of “Buenos Aires” and “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” that bordered on over-the-top (okay, maybe it left the border in the dust), but was certainly passionate and soulful and earned a rousing response from the crowd.

* William Michals, taking a cue from Marc Kudisch in the 1945 edition of Broadway by the Year, sang “Soliloquy” from Carousel…and gave Kudisch a run for his money. He effortlessly conveyed the full range of emotions in the song, and milked plenty of laughs with his dismayed “Aww, Bill!”—and even got an unexpected one with “I will see that he’s named after me!” In the second act, in recognition of a recent unamplified production of Man of La Mancha in which he starred, he sang “Dulcinea” and “The Impossible Dream,” earning a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd.

* Bill Daugherty and Scott Coulter sang a poignant and powerful “You Walk With Me” from The Full Monty, unembellished and with plenty of emotion. (It was seriously one of the more chill-inducing moments of the evening. More modern songs—which are, of course, written to be amplified—should be sung this way.)

* Husband-and-wife team of Orfeh and Andy Karl sang a very nice “Elaborate Lives” from Aida, though they seemed to have somewhat contrasting styles. (He channeled Harry Connick, Jr., and she channeled Tina Turner. It still worked.)

* In tribute to Scott Siegel’s 11:00 Numbers series at Feinstein’s, regular performers Coulter, Christina Bianco and Carole J. Bufford sang two numbers in three-part harmony: “Being Alive,” from Company, and “What I Did For Love” from A Chorus Line, which ended the evening and turned into a rousing anthem for the whole company. 

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