Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Aaron Lazar by David Friscic

Broadway star, Aaron Lazar (Phantom of the Opera, revivals of Les Miserables and A Little Night Music) casually sauntered into the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater and slowly started singing -“I’m Singing in the Rain” ever so slowly but steadily surging to a rousing climax as he subtly incorporated “Gypsy in my Soul” into one dazzling opening-number.

Aaron Lazar. Photo courtesy of The Trevor Project.

Plunging into fourteen different songs and an evocative encore during a propulsive and fluid seventy-five minute set of standards, Broadway classics, humorous ditties, and signature songs, Lazar emphasized the personal touch and devoted long chunks of patter between songs to the familial joys of his boyhood at his grandparents’ home, his endearing parents,and his wife and his two sons. These personal anecdotes were often startling in their originality yet as Mr. Lazar said,“How could you  make this stuff up?” This frank and chatty tone helped to lighten the tension of some of the more serious songs and Lazar proved adept at juggling the songs and the conversational tone.

Highlights of the evening were “That Old Feeling” in which Lazar channeled Sinatra and memories of hearing his voice on the radio while growing up and visiting his grandparents’ home.  His sonorous tones were evident in his sensitive rendition of Sondheim’s “Pretty Women” and he admitted he went through a Sondheim adulation period. His description of the two totally different personas of Elaine Stritch and Angela Lansbury while visiting them in their dressing rooms when working with them on A Little Night Music was priceless.

His authoritative yet sensitive rendition of “All I ask of You” and “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera almost brought the audience to its’ feet only halfway through the show. Humorous takes on “Shiksa Goddess” and “Smelly Shoe” were offbeat and effective. Lazar touchingly showed his love for his progeny when he gave a tender, caressing rendition of  “Over the Moon” contrasted with the whimsical piece “The Oyster Song.”

Lazar’s love for Manhattan was shown in a jazzy rendition of “New York State of Mind” and he capped the evening with the beautifully shaded “Look for me in the Songs.”  The audience clamored for an encore and Lazar more than satisfied with the touching “Love to Me” from his starring role in the The Light in the Piazza.

Lazar was accompanied throughout the evening with the expert skills of pianist and Music Director, Jesse Kissel, who had a charming interactive manner with Lazar.

Aaron in 'A Little Night Music.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Aaron Lazar is,indeed, a talent who will be around for a very long time and it is to the credit of Barbara Cook’s Spotlight for showcasing him in such an intimate venue.

Now in its fifth season, Barbara Cook’s Spotlight brings perennial Broadway favorites to the Kennedy Center’s intimate Terrace Theater for a host of theater cabaret performances. The legendary Barbara Cook will conclude the series for 2011-12 with performances on June 15 and 16, 2012.

Continuing in its sixth season , the 2012-13 series will feature Broadway favorites Maureen McGovern on October 12, 2012; Donna Murphy on November 9, 2012;  Judy Kuhn on Decemmer 7, 2012;  Terri White on January 25, 2013; and Adam Pascal on May 10, 2013.

Aaron Lazar’s website.

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