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Review - Fred Barton Presents - And Thinks You're Gonna Love It!

In these days of ever-shrinking Broadway orchestras, it's rather refreshing to walk into a cabaret room and find that seats have been removed from an otherwise sold-out house in order to fit a nine-piece musical ensemble.

But in the unusually titled Fred Barton Presents - And Thinks You're Gonna Love It!, the accomplished musician best known for his long-running gig as Forbidden Broadway's original music director and as performer/writer of the nutty solo musical Miss Gulch Returns, conducts an ensemble of three brasses, three woodwinds, bass, percussion and piano in treating showtune-savvy ears to a lively evening of theatre music featuring his own dynamic orchestrations.

The once a month show (next appearing February 12th) has Barton hosting with a wry sense of theatre-centric humor and a flamboyantly jaunty conducting style reminiscent of Cab Calloway. While there are standards in the mix, ("All The Things You Are" "Make Someone Happy") the focus is on theatre songs that aren't heard as often as they should be.

Joining in for his January appearance were piano bar favorite Elena Bennett, a classy-dame belter with a vibrant personality - kicking out big band vocals on "It's a Helluva Way To Run A Love Affair" and giving a soft and thoughtful feeling to "Ribbons Down My Back - and Damon Kirsche, a handsome lad with a pleasing high baritone and a knack for comedy, playing a sleazy theatre agent in "Ten Percent" and a sermonizing preacher in "A Picture of Happiness."

Jule Styne was represented quite a bit this particular night, which began with our host just barely covering his distain as he endured listen to a medley of selections from The Lion King, Mamma Mia and Spring Awakening before tearing into a rousing instrumental Dixieland arrangement of "Penniless Bums" to serve as the overture. Among the Styne selections was Kirsche's deliciously self-loving "My Fortune Is My Face" and Bennett's knockout brassy "Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me." Kirsche was joined by guest Jesse Luttrell for some Hope and Crosby-ish antics in a vocal reprise of "Penniless Bums." Another guest was Karen Wilder, delightful in a swing arrangement of Kraukeur and Oppenheim's "Struttin' To Sutton Place."

The special guest of the evening was Pamela Myers, who brought down the house with a searing "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" The host charmed in patter and novelty numbers such as Cole Porter's "Don't Monkey With Broadway" and Grossman and Hackady's "Don't Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be."

There'll be a different assortment of singers for each edition of Fred Barton Presents - And Thinks You're Gonna Love It!, and if they're anything like this past one, serious showtune lovers should be in for some swell nights.

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