A true Broadway star came to George Mason University for their Arts by George! benefit last night on September 28, 2013. Laura Benanti, Broadway and TV star, performed an exceptional concert of various folk, pop, and Broadway tunes for a most appreciative audience.
Arts by George! is a college-wide event held to benefit student scholarships in Art, dance, Music, Theater, Arts Management, Computer Game Design, and Film and Video Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, as well as the Center for the Arts Great Performances at Mason season. So to celebrate this 8th annual event, George Mason University invited Laura Benanti. Benanti, a Tony Award winner for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in the revival of the musical Gypsy, has also performed in various sitcoms and film. Tonight’s concert amply showcased her unique comedic, dramatic, and musical abilities.
The night opened with Benanti singing the song “I’m Old-Fashioned,” during which she pulled out a smartphone and took a picture of the audience, announcing that she was “gonna tweet” it. It was that kind of humor that really set the tone for the evening—fun and light-hearted, and lots of audience interaction. Benanti was fun and vivacious, interacting with the audience and cracking jokes, which won the audience completely over, and allowed them to follow her through whichever song she chose to sing.
While many singers with a Broadway background choose to stick fairly close to Broadway in their concerts, Benanti chose the opposite route, singing a variety of folk songs including Joni Mitchell’s “He Comes for Conversation” and a beautifully haunting rendition of Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner,” pop songs, including Ellie Goulding’s “Starry Eyed,” and Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games,” and even some songs Benanti wrote herself, including one she sang while accompanying herself on the ukulele! Yet no matter what song or genre she chose, Benanti she delivered them beautifully and pasionately. Her voice was brassy and strong on her jazzy rendition of “On the Street Where You Live,” yet breathy on the pop songs. And her vocal skill was evident on the beautifully clear high notes and challenging riffs in “He Comes for Conversation.”
The highlight of the night was what Benanti ironically said was “the most moving part of the show”: a medley of pop songs, including Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Sisqo’s “Thong Song,” Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “I Like Big Butts,” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” among others. The audience howled as Benanti riffed and danced her way through the medley—even playing the tambourine at one point. It was fantastic and full of fun, as indeed was the whole concert.
Laura Benanti is truly the whole package: a beautiful soprano voice (especially on the song “Unusual Way” from the musical Nine), gorgeous, and hilarious. Right before her fantastic encore “The Model Song,” Benanti joked about how perhaps some of the husbands in the audience didn’t want an encore and had had enough of her—she needn’t have bothered. It was clear that this audience could not get enough of her!
Laura Benanti performed her one-night-only concert on September 28, 2013 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – at Braddock Road and Route 123 in Fairfax, Virginia. For upcoming events, and to purchase tickets, check their calendar.