BWW Review: MATTHEW MORRISON AND SHOSHANA BEAN at The Strathmore
Matthew Morrison and Shoshana been lit up the stage at the Strathmore's Annual Spring Gala in North Bethesda on Saturday. The evening started out with Shoshana Bean's jazz set which perfectly showcased her incredible voice. Bean's set included many songs from her 2018 album "Spectrum" which she expressed was an album that was rooted in and inspired by music from her childhood. Bean opened her set with a song from this album entitled "Remember the Day" - an electrifying jazz song which showcased Bean's exquisite voice and personality. She had the audience in the palm of her hand from the first note. Bean continued with songs from "Spectrum" including "I Wanna Be Around" and "Strange Thunder." Bean introduced her music director and producer David Cook who was on piano, and exclaimed to Cook that "you're one of my favorite people to make music with." The Bean and Cook pair made some exceptional music which resonated gracefully, throughout the beautiful Strathmore music hall.
Bean was sure to mention her support of arts education because she, herself is "the child of an arts educator and the product of an arts education." She stated that " the arts give children a form of expression; a way to express what's inside." The audience erupted in applause in support of Bean's comments on arts education. "As long as there is air in my lungs, giving me a voice to speak, I will speak out and stand up for arts education." Bean's heartfelt message resonated and landed with the audience, who in support, cheered her on. Bean was touching on the main fundraiser of the evening as the Strathmore was raising money for their arts education programs in order to have funds to be able to train our future artists.
Bean concluded her set with two songs from two influential music icons that inspired her growing up. The first icon and inspiration was Frank Sinatra. Bean had the audience laughing when she confessed that as a child "she heard Sinatra playing so much in her Grandmother's house that she thought he was her Grandfather." Bean then serenaded the audience with an intimate, personal take on Sinatra's "They Can't Take That Away from Me" while sitting on a stool next to Cook on the piano. Finally, to conclude this powerhouse performance, Bean payed tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Bean brought down the house with her take on Franklin's "I ain't ever love a man the way I love you." Before leaving the stage, she couldn't help but to gleefully introduce her friend Matthew Morrison.
"Please welcome the Tony, Grammy, and Emmy, nominated stage and screen star Matthew Morrison" said a voice which the audience came to realize was actually Matthew Morrison comically introducing himself as he hid behind his hat and walked onto the stage. Morrison opened his set with Sinatra's "The Lady is a Tramp" which was simply amazing. Morrison had the audience laughing yet again when he nervously pointed out that he has "such a tough act to follow" in regards to Bean's powerhouse opening performance. Then Morrison charmed the audience when he dedicated the song "As Long as He needs me" to his now eighteen month old son, Revel.
The majority of the second half of Morrison's set was dedicated to musical theatre hits. Morrison started this segment with "On the Street Where you Live" from Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady. Morrison then introduced, Brad Ellis on the piano, who was sure to note that he was also on Glee. Morrison continued to thrill the audience with a medley from West Side Story which included the songs: "When You're a Jet, America, Officer Krumpke, and Maria." Continuing the support of arts education, Morrison brought out students from the Young Artists of America. This group of talented children joined Morrison for his Finding Neverland medley of songs from the Broadway show which included: "Neverland and Stronger." He then transitioned into "Zippadee doo dah and The Bare Necessities" --the Disney medley that Morrison gracefully sang with a ukulele in hand. Continuing his Disney theme, Morrison joked with telling the staff that he wanted Shoshana out for a duet with him. Finally, he looked off stage and invited her on to perform "A Whole New World" from Aladdin together. This was a truly magical moment. Morrison and Bean together are nothing short of exceptional.
Morrison told the audience that "sometimes he feels as if he was born in the wrong generation." With that being said, he decided to pull out a black umbrella and do a tribute to Gene Kelly by masterfully performing a singing and dancing routine to "Singin' in the Rain." He sure knew what would thrill audiences and this song was indeed one of them! Next, to conclude his solo set, Morrison embarked on a journey as he narrated and sang a medley of songs from Hairspray taking us back to his time in the 2002 Broadway production as Link Larkin. "Welcome to the Sixties, Good Morning Baltimore, The Nicest Kids in Town, Big Blonde and Beautiful, Without Love, and You Can't Stop the Beat" were the hits from Hairspray that made up Morrison's high energy, eight minute, toe tapping and seat dancing medley.
Finally, to bring down the house one more time, the stage was filled with the Strathmore Children's Chorus and some were center stage with solos to open "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman. Shoshana Bean then joined the Children's Chorus, followed by Matthew Morrison. Before you could blink, you were surrounded by the Strathmore Children's Chorus who flooded throughout the entire venue. This powerful, energetic and masterful rendition of "This is Me" definitely got everybody smiling, dancing, and clapping. You couldn't help but stop to think about the astonishing voices all singing together on the stage. Between Morrison, Bean, and the beautiful voices of the Strathmore Children's Chorus, the hall was filled with music and joy.
The Strathmore Spring Gala was a true gem. Shoshana Bean delighted audiences and her set truly showed how amazing of a vocalist and performer she is. Matthew Morrison came ready to thrill audiences with songs they can sing and tap along to. Their moments together on stage were special to watch because they brought together two incomparable artists who truly love performing with each other. Of course, the finale "This is Me" left you t feeling inspired and moved as Morrison, Bean and the Young Artists of America brought the house down and sung the very last notes of the Strathmore's 2019 Spring Gala. It was a remarkable evening of music and talent.
Running time: One hour and a half with no intermission.
For upcoming events at the Strathmore please visit: https://www.strathmore.org/