BWW Review: Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess Kick Off the District of Comedy Festival with the National Symphony
The District of Comedy Festival got off to a strong start last night at Kennedy Center. Sure stand-up comedian Judah Friedlander had the DC-based audience in the palm of his hand with his bit about American politics, but since this is BroadwayWorld.Com and I am a bit of a musical theater nerd, let's just jump right to what happened after his opening performance. The tremendous National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) took the stage with Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. Reineke and the exceptionally versatile musicians shared a bit of Sondheim with the enthusiastic crowd. What Sondheim selection? "Comedy Tonight" of course! It was delightful.
The crowd went wild when Broadway vets (and, oh yeah, screen stars) Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess joined in on the fun. They certainly seemed to enjoy singing Andrew Lippa's "Raise the Roof" (from The Wild Party) and I must say I was pretty excited too because it wasn't your standard way to start off an evening of songs from the stage and screen. Somewhat lesser known musical theater songs that have never been sung on Broadway make me giddy and the duo certainly sold this one, just as they did the other duets of the evening, including Kander and Ebb's "Class" and "My Own Best Friend" from Chicago.
While their chemistry as a duo was certainly undeniable, the solo moments were also quite memorable. I saw Tituss Burgess in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid years back and he paid homage to that experience by singing a song he did not sing in the show. "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is one of those songs everyone seems to know and many artists sing it in cabaret, but I must say I've never seen a rendition quite as entertaining and original as Mr. Burgess'. The showmanship and vocal control was first rate. Speaking of first rate, let's discuss his rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight." It's pretty standard fare, but he put his own mark on the material.
Jane Krakowski was every bit his equal. Whether delivering a well-sung arrangement of "I'm Old Fashioned/Old Fashioned Millionaire," or charming us with a unique take on "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (let's just say she raps), she fully embraced the song selections and the opportunity to perform. A clever take on some Carole King melodies (with lyrical differences) showcased more of her musical comedy skills and strong vocal talent.
The concert delivered some great performances and is a wonderful example of how unique the Kennedy Center is within our national arts landscape. Where else, except for maybe Lincoln Center, could you hear some of Broadway's best sing with a top-notch orchestra and get a dose of comedy too?
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission
Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess performed with the NSO on July 20, 2017. For further information on the District of Comedy Festival, which continues through July 22, 2017, visit the Kennedy Center website.