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Review: LAURA BENANTI LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE at Overture Center

Women of Broadway Concert

Review: LAURA BENANTI LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE at Overture Center

We all miss live performances, and yet I was resistant to try ticketed online entertainment. However, when Laura Benanti's concert was announced through the Overture Center-as well as 21 other performing arts centers across the nation-I was ready to give this new type of entertainment a try. The show cued up on my computer with no trouble.

A seasoned Tony-winning actress, Benanti actually came on my radar via TV as the flirtatiously off-balanced wife of a quirky murdering billionaire on The Good Wife. She's also appeared on Younger and Supergirl among other shows, but for many, Benanti may be familiar for her appearances as Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Benanti has said she likely won't play Melania after President Trump leaves office and the first lady becomes a private citizen again, as that would be bullying. On Twitter, she is often hilarious and outspoken, both which were evident in her performance.

The concert opened with Benanti introducing herself from the shadows of the stage wings, making a broad entrance to her own applause and bowing to the imaginary ovation in the empty Shubert Theatre in New York City. Contrary to normal theater behavior, she welcomed viewers to text, take photos, and dig in crinkling bags for a snack. Benanti addressed the difficult times we are all facing and the struggles of theaters everywhere.

Accompanied by pianist Todd Almond and guitarist Pasquale Grasso. The program began with a witty 15-minute retelling and concert of My Fair Lady, her dream show and most recent Broadway appearance as Eliza Doolittle. Her voice was beautiful and it was easy to see how she shined in the character.

Switching things up she continued with a mash up of "Our Love is Here to Stay" and "You Didn't Do Right by Me." Plugging her new self-titled album she sang "Don't Worry About Me" and "Wives and Lovers." Between sets she held a Q&A, crowd sourced in advance from social media. Her stories were both endearing and hilarious

The second half of the concert was not as strong. During Lewis Capaldi's hit "Someone You Loved," she struggled with lyrics and lost the flow. She immediately acknowledged the miss step at the song's conclusion. Her candor reminded the audience that this was a live performance and not a prerecorded airbrushed tape.

The finale consisted of a confusing medley of pop covers including "Single Ladies," "I Got You Babe," and "Baby Got Back (I Like Big Butts)," which drove home her strength in the Broadway genre. Or, perhaps the lack of a live audience to play off of marred what might have been a better received performance. The acapella encore of Liza Minelli's "A Quiet Thing," redeemed the night with her beautiful vocals and sincere delivery.

Viewing the concert from the comfort of home was more enjoyable than I would have anticipated. Until it's safe to attend live performances, I look forward to more online shows.

Next up in the Live From the West Side series is critically acclaimed actress and singer Vanessa Williams on Dec. 5. Single tickets are on sale now for $30 each.

Tickets are available at overture.org and include access to each livestream performance, plus an additional 72 hours of on-demand viewing of a video recording of the livestream, available beginning one hour after each live broadcast ends.

Each show, transmitted live in HD with professional sound mixing, will feature a mix of Broadway showtunes, pop songs and personal stories from the life of each headliner. At-home audience members will be invited to email in questions to be answered during the livestream.

The Women of Broadway series is presented locally by Bell Laboratories. The Laura Benanti show is underwritten by Park Bank; and the Vanessa Williams performance is underwritten by Dean and Nancy Baumgardner. Overture is grateful for this community support that helps make these virtual experiences possible.

OVERTURE CENTER FOR THE ARTS in Madison, Wis., features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and four galleries. With the vision to provide "Extraordinary Experiences for All," Overture's mission is to support and elevate our community's creative culture, economy and quality of life through the arts. overture.org



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