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Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

The music of Gwen Verdon fills Don't Tell Mama in Judi Mark tribute show.

Lovely Judi Mark recently concluded a brief run of her Gwen Verdon show MERELY MARVELOUS at Don't Tell Mama, where a nicely-sold house of audience members was thoroughly engaged by the tribute show. The program (fully titled MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF Gwen Verdon) focuses on the music that the legendary Broadway star created during her lifetime, even though Ms. Mark, herself, has a long history in dance, which informs her love of the multiple Tony Award recipient. Touching briefly on the dance aspect of both of their lives during the act, Ms. Mark also managed to throw in some delicious dance moves during one number, but, for the most part, she stuck to the songs. Songs from Sweet Charity, Redhead, Chicago, Damn Yankees, and a few other sources like television appearances and recordings were what Judi Mark wanted to put in the spotlight, and with the help of director Jeff Harnar, Musical Director Ian Herman, and bass player supreme, Ritt Henn, Judi is in good hands.

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

A new show for Ms. Mark, Merely Marvelous is sweet and entertaining and it's nice to hear someone talk about Verdon's song catalogue and her work as an actor because, much of the time, that which people remember her for is the dancing. But Ms. Mark reflects back on her own life, on the similarities in their mutual lives, and how Verdon's artistry, so, resonated within Judi's life. With this collection of songs (some with some clever new lyrics to make them more appropriate for Judi's story) and stellar backup from the band, Judi sounds good, sometimes displaying a quite powerful belt, and other times showing an ability with some of the softer, more sensitive, moods of the music. Full of appeal and sincerity, Ms. Mark knows all her lyrics - a relief in an industry where more and more people are reading their lyrics during their shows - and, more than that, she knows where she's going. Judi has worked with her director on a script that allows her a comfortable story arc, and she and her team have also worked on making cuts to theatrical numbers being pared down into a solo song. The work on the truncation of the songs is good, though the team might consider taking another look at the "Funny Honey" number from Chicago because Ritt Henn's performance as Amos Hart began to overpower Judi, in character as Roxie. Henn and Mark do, though, have a delightful duet as the characters Lola and Applegate, making "Two Lost Souls" one of the evening highlights.

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Other highlights from the evening are ones where Judi Mark's acting ability shows - the "Roxie" monologue from Chicago fits seamlessly and enjoyably into a fine rendition of the famous number, and a performance of "Where Am I Going?" from Sweet Charity was a spot-on acting moment for Judi, who paid a heartfelt tribute to the late Tex Arnold, her one-time musical director, who did the arrangement. It was clearly important to Judi Mark to get that into the show and Mr. Harnar guided the moment with finesse and dignity - but he has guided Judi well throughout the entire show, especially during two fun numbers -"A Little Brains, A Little Talent" and "Feelin' Groovy," both of which show off that Judi Mark is a quite playful lady (sometimes playfully flirtatious), one whose presence warms that heart.

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

As a new show, there is some tightening up to be done, but it isn't much. There are times when it feels like the script isn't quite in Judi's muscle memory yet - not the songs, because she has got those down, to the letter. There are just times when Ms. Mark seems to be searching for her next line, but those are all times spent sharing Gwen Verdon's life story. When speaking about her own life, Judi Mark speaks as though she were hanging out at the bar (or the barre) with friends, and that's because she doesn't need a script to tell those stories - she already knows them. When recounting the stories from Verdon's life, there are facts and trivia and the like to remember, and nobody wants to go out on stage and get that stuff wrong... but it would behoove Judi to remember that the audience isn't going to test her - they are there for her, there to support and love her, and when that next line doesn't want to come, it's ok. It'll come the next time. Other than these few awkward moments of memory loss, Judi comes across as nice and natural - with a little more study and rehearsal, those stories will be as easy as the ones about her own life.

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Judi Mark and her musical cabaret are both charming, likable, and very reminiscent of a quality of benevolence once possessed by Gwen Verdon herself. If all her audiences respond the way tonight's audience did, she could have a series of encores on her hands.

Judi Mark MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF Gwen Verdon has concluded its current run but other great shows can be found on the Don't Tell Mama website HERE.

Visit the Judi Mark website HERE.

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Review: Judi Mark Honors Her Idol In MERELY MARVELOUS - THE SONGS OF GWEN VERDON at Don't Tell Mama

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.



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