Tony Award winner and Broadway virtuoso and Tony Award winner Faith Prince beguiled and dazzled the audience at her concert entitled Have a Little Faith at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. Ms. Prince’s concert was the first in The Kennedy Center’s Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series for this season and, indeed, it was an auspicious start-up for the season. Ms. Prince entered the intimate Terrace Theater with an infectious spirit that combined a come-hither Betty Boop smile with a kewpie doll sass and exuberance.
Launching into a medley of the songs “Broadway Baby” and “Adelaide’s Lament”, her infectious exuberance and wit infused each line with warmth and verve. Dressed in a flowing, highly stylized outfit and accompanied by music director Alex Rybeck, Ms. Prince moved with grace and agility from one musical number to another. Ms. Prince displayed an almost chameleon-like ability to change her persona with a combination of supreme interpretative skill aligned with a glorious and sensitive singing voice.
As I told Ms. Prince when I met her after the concert, this was the first time I had ever seen her perform and I was extremely thrilled by her utter versatility. Ms. Prince actually turned each song into moving and absorbing comic or dramatic vignettes. Ms. Prince displayed her gorgeous vocals with a range that extended from bluesy ballads to Broadway brassy standards to evocative and moving reflections on love and life. Indeed, the intermixing of intelligent patter interspersed with each musical number combined to make a mosaic of Ms. Prince’s life journey as she mused on topics ranging from career struggles, family, touring, successes, and loss of dear friends.
Ms. Prince discussed being cast in the cult hit Little Shop of Horrors in the role of Audrey and she performed “Somewhere That’s Green” with nostalgic verve and a sense of camp. She then sang a surging, heartfelt rendition of “Suddenly, Seymour” that she ended with a very bluesy, almost staccato-like cadence.
Prince’s cover of Dave Frishberg’s “Sweet Kentucky Ham” perfectly captured the essence of the weary traveler on the road and even rivaled Rosemary Clooney’s superb rendition. Prince sang with a purity and meditative sweetness of tone throughout. The tender tones of Prince’s voice were delicate and intimately delivered to convey the ultimate effect of homesickness.
Whimsical theatrical movement accompanied the lovely “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here!” from Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. This melodious classic was a charming, frothy delight as delivered by Ms. Prince.
Prince lamented the passing of the beloved Broadway veteran Elaine Stritch and paid her respects by performing a very unique and distinctive cover of the acerbic Sondheim classic “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Prince actually sang the song as if she was becoming progressively plastered and made the song all the more hard-hitting.
Larry Lunetta, her husband of many years, joined Ms. Prince on the horn for a “film-noir-ish’, very evocative version of “Man with a Horn.” One could feel the sense of palpable joy exuding from the couple as they so lovingly shared the stage. The moody lighting of the song was very effective in creating the languid temper of the song. (Kudos to The Kennedy Center stage crew which Ms. Prince thanked very profusely). Ms. Prince’s velvety smooth tones caressed each note for an authentically torch-song ambience.
Intricacy of wordplay and a wistful, joyful manner pervaded Ms. Prince’s rendition of the Frank Loesser standard “If I Were A Bell” from Guys and Dolls. I could easily discern why Ms. Prince was so lauded for this Tony Award-inning portrayal of Miss Adelaide— for her sense of timing, inflection and pitch were impeccable.
A total change of pace was next as Ms. Prince sang a haunting, immersing song entitled “Tattooed Boy from Memphis” by Carol Hall. This song was so beautifully delivered by Ms. Prince that you could hear a pin drop! This song about the unknown bonds connecting the human heart to supposedly “passing strangers” was a surprising treat in its unabashed emotional heft. The poetic and tremulous feel of this stunning piece just might have been the highlight in an evening of highlights (yet, like picking apples or oranges, it is very hard to pick out one definitive highlight in such a richly textured evening).
Moving on to another dimension with the Kander and Ebb classic “The World Goes ‘Round,” Ms. Prince built each note slowly and gradually culminated with a shattering climax. Ms. Prince portrayed the spirit of survival against all odds that saturates this defiant and rousing song.
For her well-deserved and much to be expected encores, Ms. Prince first delivered a hilarious and madcap rendition of the amusing novelty song “The Boy From” (by Stephen Sondheim and Mary Rodgers). Ms. Price’s face was contorted in so many manifestations that it seemed as if she was composed of silly putty. Every facial expression brought forth squeals of delight from the audience.
For her closing encore, Ms. Prince sang a poignant and heartfelt song entitled “Bless Your Heart.” Written by Ira Gasman and her very own Musical Director—Alex Rybeck–, this song was a fitting conclusion to a concert that will long live in my memory.
Though the concert focuses on Prince’s very fascinating life journey, it is like Lily Tomlin’s acclaimed one-woman show The Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe in that each individual vignette threads together to touch a universal chord of resonance. (The only difference is that Ms. Prince also has the asset of her musical genius to make her show all the more versatile.)
It was a privilege and a pleasure to witness this concert of Ms. Prince —-for she represents the ultimate personification of what it means to be a true professional and a Broadway star!
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Faith Prince played on is October 31, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.in the Terrace Theater at The KennedyCenter-2700 F Street ,NW, in Washington, DC. For future Kennedy Center events go to their performance calendar.