BWW Review: Billy Porter Sizzles on the Soraya Stage with THE SOUL OF RICHARD RODGERS
When you are dealing with a phenomenal talent such as Billy Porter, expect the unexpected in his performance. His Tony and Grammy winning tour.de.force as Lola in Kinky Boots is living proof. In his latest touring cabaret/concert show entitled Billy Porter: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, Porter delivers some of his own compositions along with a bevy of show tunes from the collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein that truly affected him as he was growing up in Pittsburgh. What stands out is the soul of the man who wrote music that not only moved us but changed the world. Rodgers had that kind of power...and so does Porter. His divergent and unique appearance and vocal style express passion in spades. The 90-minute set is bold, dynamic and full of the rage about resisting the current adminstration and continuing to fight for gay rights in our country.
In the middle of the show Porter leaves the stage and a video screen comes down. We are shown a masterful music video in which he performs "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" from South Pacific. Truly electric is the fearless approach of Billy Porter who dresses as he pleases with large hats, a scarf draping over his leather pants to remind one of a sarong or skirt, and sometimes without but often wearing an abundance of feminine facial makeup. He decries the racial injustice of Trump without every mentioning his name, but we get the big picture and fast. Porter is calling the nation to action. Some members of the audience walked out...maybe they were offended by the politics or by the fact that these Richard Rodgers songs sound somewhat unrecognizable with Porter's eclectic yet remarkably fresh arrangements wrapped around them. I turned to my friend and exchanged a quick, "You certainly have never heard this music sung quite like this before!" My response, of course, was positive. As Lin-Manuel Miranda has proven with Hamilton, we need to welcome all forms of music, particularly when they recognize individuality and are soulful, refreshing and transformative.
Porter has more than enough energy to carry the show by himself, but he brought in rapper Zaire Park. Accompanying Porter throughout the evening were superb musicians Jordan Peters on guitar, David Cutler on bass, Zach Mullings on drums and musical director extraordinaire Christiasn Almiron at the keyboard. Michael "Lofey" Sandlofer is listed as executive music director.
Highlights in the show are: Rodgers' hits like "Edelweiss" from Sound of Music, "My Romance", "The Lady Is a Tramp", "I Have Dreamed", "My Funny Valentine", "Carefully Taught" and of course the aforementioned "Wash That Man". Porter opened with a rousing "We'll Be Together", performed the delightfully rich Marvin Gaye mood piece "What's Goin' On" as he made his way into the audience to sing impromptu with man, woman and child. And as encore he sang a couple of 'blow the roof off the joint' numbers from Kinky Boots.
I support Billy Porter. We cannot allow racial injustice to prevail. That means that gays must have marriage equality and every other right under heaven. Billy Porter as musician brings a lot of heat to his performance. He rivets your attention with his amazing look and voice. Don't miss him! Resist! And...watch him on Ryan Murphy's Pose on fxtv Sunday nights! Also purchase his latest CD The Soul of Richard Rodgers at amazon.com!