BWW Reviews: Kritzerland Offers Jubilant Salute to Steven Schwartz at Sterling's

To quote one of Steven Schwartz' most famous songs, it seems like Kritzerland monthy concerts are getting pretty darn "Popular". On Monday, February 4, an off night for Kritzerland - Bruce Kimmel wisely did not wish to compete with Super Bowl Sunday on the 3rd - Kritzerland Records presented a jubilant evening of Schwartz music, some tunes lesser known than others, with a stupendous cast including guest stars Karen Morrow and Adrian Zmed at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. Other singers included: Kim Huber, Lisa Livesay, Dennis Kyle, Dan Callaway, Chelsea Emma Franko, Jenna Rosen and Sarah and Sami Staitman. Trouper Franko stepped in as a replacement soloist at the eleventh hour. This was perhaps one the most enjoyable Kritzerland evenings, not only because of Schwartz' delightful music, but every single performer gave 150% to the material. It rocked!

The show opened with the season finale of BWW's hit webseries Outside the Box with Adrian Zmed essaying The Shining. For those unfamiliar with the series produced by Bruce Kimmel, each week there's a new musical treatment of a show that should never be turned into a musical. Besides The Shining we have seen Ben Hur and The Miracle Worker among many others. Fun stuff! And who knows, after the success of Silence! The Musical? You never know what may get produced in this business called show.

Kimmel as narrator of Kritzerland always tells funny anecdotes and provides interesting trivia about the various composers honored. This time he mentioned that as a youngster in 1972 he auditioned for Broadway's Pippin. Pippin, in fact, is one of Steven Schwartz' most popular shows ever, as is his current long-running hit Wicked, about to celebrate its 10th spectacular year on Broadway. Both shows provided multiple numbers throughout the 90-minute set, with great musical direction from Lloyd Cooper. Another one of Schwartz' most intriguingly successful was the lesser known The Magic Show starring Doug Henning, opening in New York in 1974. This show gave us the terrific tune "West End Avenue" sung beautifully in this set by Lisa Livesay. S. S. flops were Children of Eden (1991), The Baker's Wife, which died on the road, and Working from the novel by Studs Turkel, which did leave us "It's an Art", an ode to the waitress, sung deliciously by Kim Huber and "Fathers and Sons", a reflectively gorgeous piece given its due by great tenor Dan Callaway.

Other highlights were "No Time At All" from Pippin sung by powerhouse belter Karen Morrow, who jokingly had said "No!" to Kimmel before about singing this song, because she was too young. "Now", she jokingly quibbled, "I'm the right age to sing it!" For those of us that relished Pippin, Irene Ryan - The Beverly Hillbillies' Granny sang it on Broadway and came off stage into the wings one night, collapsed and died. Bizarre, as the song stresses thinking young and living life to the very fullest until you die. That she assuredly did! Needless to say, Morrow's delivery was super and she made the tune soar to the rafters. The other special guest was Adrian Zmed from Grease and TV's TJ Hooker fame. Zmed, still in fine voice, appeared at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey in Children of Eden many years ago and repeated the lovely song he sang in the production "Hardest Part of Love". Kimmel amusingly added "There is life after New Jersey".

More highlights: two terrific solos from Dennis Kyle "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin and "Style" from The Magic Show, which really showed off his comedic flair. There was a rousing opening from 14 year-old Jenna Rosen of two Godspell treats "Beautiful City" and "Day by Day", a cute duet from the young Staitman sisters on "All the Best"... and Chelsea Emma Franko dynamically filled out "The Wizard and I" and "Lion Tamer". Also: Callaway and Kyle did a lovely job with "For Good", Lisa Livesay was super with "Popular" and "I'm Not That Girl", all from Wicked, and Kim Huber proved incredible with the finale "Meadowlark" from Baker's Wife.

Next month: Saurday, March 2, another off-day for Kritzerland, to celebrate the musical life of Billy Barnes. Should be delightful! Mark your calendars and reserve early!

(event photo credit: Jim Spada)

Chelsea Emma Franko

left to right: Dennis Kyle, Dan Callaway

left to right: Lisa Livesay, Kim Huber

Guest Star: Adrian Zmed

Guest Star: Karen Morrow

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From This Author Don Grigware

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