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Arts and Theater 1
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Black Tie International:
Courtney Graves in Concert

Courtney Graves



Courtney Graves in Concert: My Perfect Night

Broadway By the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1997

By Ward Morehouse III


Music lovers were treated to two sassy and unconventional shows this past week. Courtney Graves in Concert in a show at the Metropolitan Room called "My Perfect Night" and Christine Noll, Robert Cuccioli, Linda Eder, Lillias White, Chuck Cooper, Karen Ziemba, Christina Blanco, Christine Andreas and others in "Broadway By The Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1997," produced by Town Hall. Taken together, in a play on the subtitle of Mr. Graves' show, they were my perfect night.

You don't have to be a cabaret fan to love Mr. Graves' "My Perfect Night." which included classic Broadway songs like "Lover Come Back to Me" by Sigmund Romberg & Oscar Hammerstein II (far better know for being the lyricist for such musicals as "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!") and "I'm a Fool to Want You,"  believed to be the only song Frank Sinatra ever wrote (with Jack Wolf  and Joel Herron).

But the high points of "Night" were the Brazilian
rhythms Mr. Graves and composer/arranger Bill Brendle ( ) used in Mr. Graves' renditions of "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," written by the late talk show host/composer Steve Allen, "Too Close for Comfort", "Caramel" and "Night Song." Very  entertaining!

I also enjoyed his rendition of "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die" by Al Hoffman, Walter Kent and Manny Kurtz and made world famous by the one and only and still very much singing and living legend Julie Wilson.

Accompanying Mr. Graves June 18 were Preston Smith, pianist;
Sebastiao Apolinario, percussionist; Dave Jackson, bass; Doug Harris,
sax and flute. Alva Nelson will sub for Preston Smith in Mr. Graves'
second "Night" at the Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22 St. on Thursday, June 30 at 7 pm. And Vita Wallace will join them then on violin and

It should be noted that Mr. Graves is new to the world of
New York cabaret and could use some some seasoning in future
appearances. Yet he has a highly- appealing earnestness and obvious
love of the material which is infectious. I have no idea where Mr.
Graves will go after The Metropolitan Room. His sunnily touching style
may be no match for those of veterans such as Michael Feinstein, Steve Ross or KT Sullivan. But his understated exuberance, good looks and clever and tasteful approach to his selections from both the Broadway songbook and pop classics bode a promising future indeed.

I remember the Broadway musicals of 1997 very well indeed as I was a Broadway columnist of the New York Post at the time. They were a mixed bag from a show such as "The Lion King" which became a mega hit, and "Steel Pier," "Dream," and "Triumph of Love," all of which had comparatively short runs. All the more reason why many bouquets are in order for a magnificent night of songs from "The Broadway Musicals of 1997," part of the Broadway by the Year series at Town Hall. As directed by Christiane Noll, who also starred in numbers from "Steel Pier" and "Jekyll & Hyde," among others, this was the richest, most romantic theatrical evening I've spent on Broadway almost since ... well, 1997!

Dozens of theatergoers like me just hated to see the evening end at
Town Hall June 20. But, wait! It was part of Town Hall's 90th
Anniversary that features Town Hall's Fifth Annual Summer Broadway
Festival in July, created, written and hosted by Mr. Siegel. This
includes "Broadway Winners" on July 11 and, and "Broadway's Rising
Stars" on July 18.

"Having assembled this cast of 14 exceptional talents to perform 23 of
1997's most memorable (Broadway) songs has been a labor of love," said Scott Siegel. "To that end, I'm delighted that we accomplished quite a number of firsts ...: this is the first time the three stars of 'Jekyll & Hyde' were reunited on stage to perform together since they were on Broadway together in their show. This is the directorial debut of Christiane Noll. And this is the
first time in the history of 'Broadway
By the Year' that we had seven original stars recreate a total of
eleven songs ...

"Yet even with such exceptional talents there were
performances which brought the house down -- and some to their feet. Among these were Lillias White singing "The Oldest Profession" from "The Life," Chuck Cooper singing "Don't Take Much," also from "The Life," Christinne Andreas singing "When I Look at You" from "The
Scarlet Pimpernel" and Christina Bianco singing "Can Your Feel the Love Tonight" from "The Lion King."

These performers and the others beautifully convinced me there were bright and shining musical gems in a comparatively lackluster Broadway season. Moreover, "The Broadway Musicals of 1997" made me think seriously that a few shows such as "The Life," and "Jekyll and Hyde" should be revived in all their original glory in the current decade.

On the other hand, some shows from 1997, such as "Dream," which
starred the late incomparable Marguaret Whiting with songs such as
"Goody Goody" and "Too Marvelous for Words" by the equally incomparable Johnny Mercer, are best left to concerts such as in "Broadway By the Year" series created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel.. Finally, bravos for Ross Patterson's musical direction and Jeffry Denman's choreography which helped make "The Broadway Musicals of 1997" one of the most entertaining shows on or off Broadway this or any season.


Joyce Brooks

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