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BWW Reviews: Nobody Does It Better than Kritzerland Saluting Marvin Hamlisch

Nobody Does It Better...The Music of Marvin Hamlisch/Sunday October 7/Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal

 by guest reviewer - Jim Spada

Simply to recite a list of the recently deceased Marvin Hamlisch's awards--three Oscars in 1973 for The Way We Were and The Sting;  a Tony and Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line; three Emmys, two Golden Globes, four ASCAP awards, and a Grammy is enough the inspire awe. But as host Bruce Kimmel reminds us during the fabulous 26th Kritzerland Show at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal in NoHo on October 7, he had his share of flops too like The Goodbye Girl, or Jean Seberg.  But even a flop show can have some beautiful songs in it, and Kimmel includes a number of these among the twenty selections offered.

Kimmel, a record producer, drolly introduces each song with background about it, some of the patter personal reminiscences of his own about Hamlisch, Liza Minnelli, and others. He also nicely sings one number, "Fallin'" from They're Playing Our Song. When Kimmel said he would be singing the song, a woman sitting near me commented, "I didn't know he sang." When the song ended, she added, "He's pretty good!

The diverse eight-member cast of this revue, most of them with extensive legitimate theater experience, served the material well. Angel Reda, a tall, pretty blonde, and amazingly limber, opened the show with a spirited "A Beat Behind" from The Goodbye Girl, and later sang a medley of "If You Really Knew Me" and "I Still Believe in Love" from They're Playing Our Song and a belted "No More" from The Goodbye Girl.

The strong-voiced Kevin Bailey offered "Cannot Hear the City" from  Sweet Smell of Success,"Smile" from Smile and the only song I was less than crazy about, through no fault of Bailey's, and a great performance of "At the Fountain" from Sweet Smell of Success.

Next up was "perky" (Kimmel's word, and I wouldn't disagree) Juliana Hanson, who performed a medley of "The Travelin' Life" (which a teenage Hamlisch wrote for Liza Minnelli's debut album) and his first pop hit, "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows," originally sung by Lesley Gore. She also did a fantastic job with "Disneyland," another song from Smile. My one reservation about this selection is that it seemed to be included mainly because of its lyrics (by Howard Ashman); I didn't find the melody particularly distinctive.

Joanne O'Brien, possessor of the prettiest voice of the night, delivered "Dreamer" from Jean Seberg, "Through the Eyes of Love" from Dirty Girl, and a lovely "Ordinary Miracles," written by Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman especially for Barbra Streisand.

Tall, handsome, and a leading man in the making, Jeffrey Christopher Todd did a fantastic, well-sung-and-acted job on "Elliot Garfield Grant" from The Goodbye Girl.

In a bit of hilarious gender-bending, the very energetic Jason Graae sang "Dance Ten, Looks Three" from A Chorus Line. The song takes on a whole new layer of meaning when sung by a man.

Euan Morton gave a strong, big-voiced performance of the Carly Simon hit "Nobody Does It Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me, followed by a gorgeous, quietly emotional rendition of "The Way We Were." As a Streisand fan, I'm of course very familiar with the song, but I found Morton's heartfelt version really touching.

The finale was provided by Kay Cole, the original Maggie in A Chorus Line, who sang "What I Did for Love." Interestingly, Kimmel informed us that the song was originally supposed to be sung by Cole's Maggie rather than Priscilla Lopez's Diana. It would have been in equally good hands had Cole sung it.

After the cast all came back on stage for their curtain call (which elicited rousing cheers from the packed house), they, Kimmel and the excellent musical director Tom Griep led the audience in a sing-along of "One" from A Chorus Line. It was a perfect end of a highly enjoyable evening.

If you love musical theater, or just great songs, I suggest you catch as many future Kritzerland shows at Sterling's as you can. Their next, a tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein (with a little Hart and Sondheim thrown in) is November 4.

photo credit: Jim Spada

left to right: Euan Morton, Jeffrey Christopher Todd, Juliana Hansen, JoAnne O'Brien, Kay Cole

left to right: Kevin Bailey, JoAnne O'Brien, Tom Griep

left to right: Euan Morton, Juliana Hansen, Jeffrey Christopher Todd

left to right: Kay Cole, Angel Reda

left to right: Angel Reda, Bruce Kimmel, Michael Sterling

ensemble with producer Andryan Russ on far left

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