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BWW Reviews: Kritzerland Revels its Captivated Crowd with THE BIRTHDAY BOYS: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim & Andrew Lloyd Webber


Kritzerland Presents The Birthday Boys: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim & Andrew Lloyd Webber/produced & hosted by Bruce Kimmel/musical direction by Lloyd Cooper/Kritzerland at Sterling's Upstairs at The Federal

On March 8, the 55th version of Kritzerland At Sterling's Upstairs at The Federal followed its successful formula of monthly themed cabarets with The Birthday Boys: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim & Andrew Lloyd Webber. Bruce Kimmel, a most amiable host, intros each song with a tiny encyclopedia of fun trivia, some of which are yet new to the Sondheim and Webber aficionados. Kimmel even sang some warring salvos that he envisioned Sondheim and Webber might have sent each other, re- writing the lyrics to "Agony" and "Music of the Night." Too funny!

The sixteen songs selected from the Sondheim and Webber canons receive delicious execution from the collective melodic vocal talents of Stan Chandler, Kevin Earley, Kimberly Hessler, Valerie Perri, Sue Raney, Bruce Vilanch (yes, the comedian does sing, and well!), and Adrienne Visnic.

The rich-voiced Visnic amusingly opens the evening with "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience" from Sondheim's Frogs. Later Visnic just kills it with her "Getting Married Today" from Sondheim's Company. Her machine gun vocals use the same sped-up tempo Madeline Kahn used in 1970's Company. Bulls-eye, Ms. Visnic!!!

Hessler's gorgeous operatic tones in "Half a Moment" from Webber's By Jeeves totally reminiscent of the ideal Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.

Chandler and Earley duet with well-matched booming voices and competing egos on Sondheim's genius comic tune "Agony" from Into the Woods. Chandler's lilting high tenor notes sustain beautifully in his ending of "Love Changes Everything" from Webber's Aspects of Love. Earley wonderfully displays his comic timing in "Make the Most of Your Music" from Sondheim's Follies and his wi-i-ide vocal range in "Music of the Night" from Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.

Perri readily combines her acting prowess with her strong vocals in "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar and "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from his Sunset Boulevard.

The always hysterical Vilanch loses his mind in "Losing My Mind" from Sondheim's Follies, but manages to find it to tell a very funny, very timely joke involving Harrison Ford with Brian Williams, Bill O'Reilly and Hillary Clinton. Comedic gold, Vilanch is!

Raney showed all she still has what it takes to sell a song in her slowed down version of "Send in the Clowns" from Sondheims' A Little Night Music. Shelly Markham superbly accompanied Ms. Raney.

The masterful musical director Lloyd Cooper, backing up all the other performers, worked his magic; converting his single piano sound into what seemed a full section of harmonizing instruments. Very nice!

The 56th edition of Kritzerland Presents will be on Sunday April 5.

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