Cabaret Review: ‘The Lost Songs of Broadway – 1960s’ at Signature Theatre by Jennifer Perry

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As the final installment of Signature Theatre’s 5-show 2011-2012 cabaret season, Matthew Gardiner (Director) has conceived a quite memorable presentation of ‘lost’ songs from Broadway musicals of the 1960s. As the audience is reminded several times throughout the course of the performance, this cabaret does not provide an opportunity to hear the hits of Mame, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, Hair, or any of the other countless hits featured in other popular Broadway shows of the era. Instead, it gives audience the unique chance to hear songs that were cut from several of these popular shows, memorable songs from shows that flopped, and other gems from lesser known shows. Put succinctly, it’s a musical theatre geek’s delight!

Madeline Botteri. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Gardiner, who seems to have a knack for picking interesting songs, has also put together a fine cast to perform these treasure chest finds. Featuring vocalists Madeline Botteri, Carolyn Cole, Jake Odmark, and Matt Pearson, and the immensely talented Howard Breitbart on piano, this cabaret is a fine showcase of the musical theatre talent. Several songs are highlights and each performer has a chance to shine alone and in a group.

Madeline Botteri, who is perhaps the most successful at combining stunning vocals with song interpretation skills, excels in performing Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim’s “Someone Woke Up” (from Do I Hear a Waltz) and Bock and Harnick’s “Dear Sweet Sewing Machine” (cut from Fiddler on the Roof during its out of town tryout). Madeline’s crystal-clear soprano voice, sense of lyric meaning, and appreciation for musical dynamics is on full display in both of these numbers. For me, they were the high points of the show.

Carolyn Cole. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Carolyn Cole, perhaps best known for her Helen Hayes Award-winning turn as Tracy Turnblad in Signature’s production of the Broadway hit Hairspray, shows off her sassy side again in Bob Merrill’s “Nobody Steps on Kafritz” (from the infamous Broadway flop Henry, Sweet Henry). Her strong belt, albeit a bit too nasal at times for my taste, allows her to bring the house down with this number. Her rendition of Jerry Herman’s “Love is Only Love” (cut from Mame) is also a noteworthy as it features tender and emotion-filled vocals.

Jake Odmark. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Jake Odmark (last seen in Signature’s world premiere play, Really, Really) hits a vocal high as he performs Bock and Harnick’s “I’ve Got What You Want” (from The Apple Tree). Although his renditions of the quieter numbers in the cabaret were not quite as vocally memorable as they could have been (at least in the performance I saw), he definitely shines in this big number. He has total vocal control as he riffs his way to the song’s finish.

Matt Pearson (a mainstay of DC theatre and Signature cabarets) also has a shining moment or two. Pearson has the daunting task of performing Mark Charlap and Eddie Lawrence’s infamously terrible “Ode to the Brooklyn Bridge” (from Kelly, which was the first show to open and close on the same night). As he sings what have to be some of the worst lyrics of musical theatre, he exudes charm and demonstrates impeccable comedic timing. He does, however, also get a chance to showcase his strong vocals in the latter part of the show in Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ “Night Song” (from Golden Boy).

Matt Pearson. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

It should also be mentioned that there are two group numbers which make this cabaret one to see. The cast takes on “All I Need is One Good Break” – a classic ‘I Want Song’ from Kander and Ebb’s Flora and the Red Menace. All said and done, it was one the best renditions of that song that I’ve heard in recent years. Another standout is the encore performance of the title song of Lane and Lerner’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. The tight harmonies and impeccable, warm vocals displayed on this song certainly are a last savory moment for the audience.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

The Lost Songs of Broadway- 1960s plays through June 30, 2012 at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 820-9771 or purchase them online.