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BWW Reviews: Kritzerland Extols Meredith Willson and Gene de Paul

On Sunday August 4 Kritzerland presented its monthly tribute this time in honor of composers Meredith Willson (right) and Gene de Paul. On hand were regulars host Bruce Kimmel, musical director par excellence Tom Griep and terrific singers Jane Noseworthy, Chelsea Emma Franko, Robert Yacko, and newcomers to Kritzerland: Charlotte Mary Wen, this year's winner of LA's Next Great Stage Star 2013, Allen Everman, Justin Jones, Bruce Merkle and David Zack. Special guest star was the beautiful Sue Raney who had a record contract at Capitol Records at the age of 17.

All Kritzerland shows are beautifully organized and presented by Kimmel and co-producer Adyan Russ, and this, although not among the very best - one might say it was a tad less dynamic, more low-key - was certainly tuneful. There were more unknown songs. If you remember, Willson had hits with The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown; flops with Here's Love and 1491, about, you said it, Christopher Columbus. De Paul's hits included L'il Abner and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Highlights of the evening included: the difficult "Trouble" performed with fine panache by Kimmel, a terrific "Colorado, My Home" cut from Molly Brown onstage and put back into the movie, sung with wonderful gusto by Robert Yacko, who nicely shot out a tiny echo at song's end. Jane Noseworthy offered a lovely "Goodnight, My Someone" from Music Man and later the lovely "Being in Love". Charlotte Wen sang the lilting "Love in a Home" by de Paul, and Allen Everman scored with the little known "Get a Map and Be On Your Way" from 1491. Chelsea Emma Franko, who stepped in as a replacement three days before showtime, did not have enough rehearsal time for "I Ain't Down Yet" from Molly Brown. It's a big pull.out.all.the.stops belty production number and having three guys (Jone, Merkle and Zack) with strong voices back her up kind of served to drown out her possibilities. I admire her stamina and enthusiasm. She's a quick study and a wonderful addition to any musical stage. What she did not achieve completely with the last song she certainly made up for with sterling renditions of Gene de Paul's "I'll Remember April" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day" from Seven Brides. The piece de resistance of the evening came with Sue Raney, glamorous at 71, singing "Till There Was You" from Music Man. Her voice is still as smooth as velvet and her phrasing, impeccable. Everyone in the entire room soared on the ever popular closing "Seventy-Six Trombones" from Music Man.

Next month September 1, Kritzerland has its third anniversary party entitled Songs That Got Away: Part II with special guest stars including Chorus Line's one and only Kay Cole. Make early reservations, as most all shows sell fast, and especially this anniversary show, for which Bruce Kimmel and Michael Sterling are waving the cover charge. Call 818-754-8700.

Event Photo Credit: Stan Mazin


Entire Cast


left to right: Justin Jones, Bruce Merkle, Chelsea Emma Franko, David Zack


Ed Donovan and Miss Sue Raney


Cast Photo


left to right: Allen Everman, Charlotte Mary Wen


left to right: Jane Noseworthy, Robert Yacko


Special Guest Artist Sue Raney


left to right: Justin Jones, Bruce Merkle, Chelsea Emma Franko, David Zack


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From This Author Don Grigware