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BWW Reviews: EUAN MORTON Sings Solo at the Kennedy Center

We  have all been there.  We have scheduled two events on one night. What is one to do? Tony-nominee Euan Morton was scheduled to play "Leo Frank" the musical Parade until October 30. He was also asked by Barbara Cook to perform under the auspices of  her Spotlight series on Friday night Oct. 28 at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre.  This is not that unusual for Broadway performers and they are normally allowed take off an evening for a solo performance.  Thankfully, the good people at the Ford's allowed Morton a night off so that  an audience of close to 500 could enjoy his performance with accompaniment by Bryan Reeder (both Pianist and Musical Director).  I've been fortunate to see these two together at Center Stage and they put on a very entertaining evening.

Morton is directed by Lee Armitage who knows Morton very well having worked with him at Birdland, the Metropolitan Room, Town Hall, The Zipper and New York's The Oak Room at the Algonquin.

Morton is a consummate performer/comedian.  He can have you in stitches at one moment and have you in tears in another moment.  He got a kick out of having his 3 year-old son Iain (pronounced Ian) in the audience who was wearing a lovely black and red kilt (of course).

Right from the start, Morton was ON!! "If you've  come to see Les Miserables, you are in the wrong theater" he began. Then he added, "This one's better!" He already had his many fans around his finger.

He stated the idea of him performing at the Kennedy Center stemmed from his meeting with Cook in New York during a Sondheim celebration.  It was Cook who suggested he start the evening with Irving Berlin's 1923 romantic ballad "What'll I Do". This is was going to be an evening  delineated by decade he commented.

Next was the 1931 hit sung by Mamma Cass (who hailed from Baltimore) "Dream a Little Dream of Me" sung up-tempo.  This was originally performed by Ozzie Nelson...yes, that Ozzie Nelson from the television show "Ozzie and Harriett".

In a somber tone, Morton sang "Lili Marlene" which during World War II was sung both in English and German by the chanteuse Marlene Dietrich. Morton commented that both Allied and Axis powers sang this popular German love song (used in the 1980 German film "Lili Marleen").  Without stopping, Morton went right into "We'll Meet Again" (another World War II number written in 1939 and made a hit by British singer Vera Lynn).

The 1950's was represented by "Cry Me A River" made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.

The Sixties was next and Morton did a fine job with the Beatles' "Let it Be" (the last Beatles' song before Paul McCartney's departure.)

Morton spoke of his high regard to composer Richard Carpenter and the voice of Karen Carpenter and his homage to them was "A Song for You" from the Seventies.

Morton spoke of his return recently to his home in Scotland to see his mother and then went to Scottish singer/songwriter's popular hit "Kiteflyer's Hill".

From the Eighties, Morton talked about Cyndi Lauper who he said had the same hair and same agent of singer "Boy George" (played by Morton in the Broadway musical Taboo.) He then sang the lovely "Time After Time" (co-written by Lauper and Rob Herman in 1983).  One didn't miss the constant tap of the drum keeping time.

Did anything in the '80s make sense? No, commented Morton. Next was Whitney Houston's waltz "I Have Nothing".  When Morton changed key, the audience applauded and then gave him a huge ovation at the end.

Everyone in attendance learned something thanks to audience member.  Morton, as always, asked a simple question. "Why is it called Foggy Bottom?". Someone in the audience yelled, "Because it was a swamp". Well, thanks to a tour guide in attendance, he cleared it up. "No, it was a marsh because it was part of a river (the Potomac).  A swamp is surrounded by land." Everybody was impressed!!

Morton commented, "At just about this time, I would be beginning the trial (in the musical Parade).  He commented the musical did take its toll on him explaining what a horrible and terrible thing happened to Leo Frank.

Next was the 1990's and Billy Joel's tribute to his daughter Alexa "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel), written in 1993 and can be found in Joel's "River of Dreams". Morton's rendition was amazing. I could only imagine him singing this to his cute son.

 There is one song Morton always sings in a concert. It can be found in his first album, NewClear, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

For his "encore", Morton spoke to another idea from Cook. ..sing "Danny Boy" unmiked and he did it was beautiful.

It was an evening of humor mixed with beautiful music. Could anybody have asked for anything more? If you get a chance to see Morton in concert, do not miss it.  I won't and I haven't.

Following the 80 minute concert, Morton signed copies of his two cd's. His latest is "Caledonia"  (the Homecoming). Caledonia is the Latin name for Scotland and is now used as a romantic name for Morton's homeland.  It's a lovely compilation of songs that he remembers from his childhood and it's wonderful. On the cover is a childhood photo of Morton. For copies call 1-800-289-6923. You can visit his for more information.

Morton will be performing  the role of "Launce" at DC's Shakespeare Theatre in January in Two Gentlemen of Verona (the play, not the musical).

Barbara Cook is to be awarded a Kennedy Center Honoree on Dec. 4 (to be broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 at 9 p.m.)

Next up at  Barbara Cooks' Spotlight is Alexandra Silber on Dec. 2 with her new cabaret act London Still. Silber is coming from performing on Broadway opposite Tyne Daly in Master Class.

The Tony-winning musical Billy Elliott the Musical runs at the Opera House Dec. 14 to January 15, 2012.

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