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Review: Tony Award-Winner Stephanie J. Block at The Venetian Room

With her strong, clear alto and eclectic song choices, Block had the audience eating out of her hands.

Review: Tony Award-Winner Stephanie J. Block at The Venetian Room

Three years in the making due to the COVID pandemic, Stephanie Block got her opportunity to showcase her considerable talent and share her congenial and personal anecdotes through a repertoire that bridged her meteoric career and personal mentors. With her strong, clear alto and eclectic song choices, Block had the audience eating out of her hands.

Presented by Bay Area Cabaret, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has consistently presented high caliber acts at San Francisco's fabled Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel, Block adds her name to a long list of performers like Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Academy Award winning artists Chita Rivera, John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey, Barbara Cook, Marvin Hamlisch and Leslie Odom, Jr.

Opening with the fairytale like Stephen Schwartz's "Meadowlark" from The Bakers Wife, Block sets a high bar with a big finish that will be repeated throughout the set. Schwartz's influence of her career (she was involved in the workshops for Wicked) and played Elphaba in the first National Touring production is documented through between song backstories and a beautiful medley of "I'm Not That Girl"/" Defying Gravity".

Block is enamored with composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Seussical, Once On this Island, Anastasia) delivering a stunning version of their trunk song "Something Beautiful" then pairing Anastasia's "Journey to the Past" with Ragtime's "Back to Before." Always an outlier growing up, Block followed her own path displayed in the lyrics and of Gypsy's "Some People."

Now a mother, Block sees the world through her daughters unfiltered eyes and provides a whole new perspective to Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive." It's a new and fresh look at this classic and makes total sense. Backed by musical director/pianist Ben Cohen, Block foregoes a standup bass in favor of cellist Adele Stein and it's a winning combo, the deep tones of the cello complimenting Block's rich tones.

Block won the 2019 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Cher in The Cher Show, and the show wouldn't be complete without her slipping into the Cher drawl for a remarkable slowed down arrangement of "Believe". It's a crowd-pleaser and a fitting finale to a strong and confident show.



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