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BWW Reviews: Kritzerland Goes Off-Broadway at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal

It was a pleasure to return to Kritzerland Sunday July 6 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal for its 47th show saluting Off-Broadway shows: Kritzerland Goes Off-Broadway. Featured were stalwart hits: Hair, Ruthless!, Little Mary Sunshine, Dames at Sea, Falsettos, The Fantasticks and more recent hits such as Floyd Collins, Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years and Dogfight. With Bruce Kimmel as host, in dandy form as usual with his amazing trivia notes in between numbers, and sensational musical director John Boswell at the piano, the show got off to a rousing start with young Brennley Brown belting out "Born to Entertain" from Ruthless! Also on the bill for the evening were the wonderful: Robert Yacko, Madison Claire Parks, Kim Huber, young folks Jenna Lea Rosen, Sami Staitman and special guest stars Jason Graae and Rita McKenzie.

Off-Broadway shows are not always suited to oversized Broadway stages, but, as Kimmel pointed out, are great shows in themselves with their own distinct flavor and truly memorable scores. Who could argue with the international success of The Fantasticks which spawned hit after magnificent hit? Every song was a gem, and many were included in the program. Always reliable baritone/tenor Robert Yacko essayed "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and beautiful Madison Claire Parks simply soared with "Much More". What an incredibly lovely soprano voice! From Dames at Sea - which made Bernadette Peters a star - came an adorable "Raining In My Heart" sung deliciously by Jenna Lea Rosen, whose vocal instrument has grown and grown over the last couple of years. Equally precious was Parks' rendition of "Look for a Sky of Blue" from Little Mary Sunshine. Songs full of innocence and wonder with just enough of a satiric slant - they just don't write them anymore! From Floyd Collins, one of its stars Kim Huber lifted her lovely voice with the tender, touching "Through the Mountain". From Falsettos, the moving William Finn ballad "What More Can I Say?" was given its properly poignant delivery by the one and only Jason Graae, who as well as being a consummate comic actor, can really move you with his fine singing voice. Unique Rita McKenzie lent her Ethel Merman style voice to the song she made famous in Ruthless! entitled "I Hate Musicals", which really gets big, big laughs in its next few bars..."almost as much as I hate this song".

Lesser known numbers included: the beautiful "Never Enough" from Inside Out written by Doug Haverty and producer of Kritzerland Adryan Russ, sung lovingly by Kim Huber, a rare Jerry Herman song "Your Good Morning" from his early Parade effervescently sung by Robert Yacko, the cute and winning "Times Like This" from Lucky Stiff sung winningly by Maddy Parks, and "Nothing Short of Wonderful" from 2012's Dogfight, sung with verve and gusto by Sami Staitman. Some other trivia: LA's Next Great Stage Star 2010 saw Derek Klena as one of its winners, and he went on to co-star off-Broadway in Dogfight and did the recording of the show.

Kritzerland Goes Off-Broadway was a terrific show with the entire audience joining in the finale "Day by Day" from Godspell.

Guest Star Rita McKenzie

Be sure to join the Kritzerland group on Sunday August 3 for what promises to be another fab show, a salute to just women composers performed by mostly female singers. Then in September Kritzerland will celebrate its fourth anniversary. The anniversary show is always a lollapalooza, so make early reservations, as most shows sell out way in advance!


The one and only Richard Sherman and his wife Elizabeth spent their anniversary at the show, here with Rita McKenzie

(photo credit: Stan Mazin)

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From This Author Don Grigware