What I Wanted to Sing When I Grew Up is pure indulgence for audience and singer Fleta Hylton, a soprano powerhouse and DC institution. Billed as a lounge-opera-cabaret, Hylton basically picked all of her favorite songs and Writer/Director Elizabeth Pringle stitched them into a funny and inspirational afternoon of music.
In Series Director Carla Hübner says they do not do recitals and this isn’t one, but that she still wants to feature exceptional performers and Hylton definitely is one. She’s performed in the Washington National Operas as well as houses around the world and also has trained the next generation of stars at The Catholic University Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.
What the In Series has created is a genre-defying retrospective about life itself – time, love, work and everything in between. As Hylton says towards the start, “It’s going to be a bumpy, sweet, sad, funny night.” The monologues between songs feel artificial at times, but are saved by hilarious one-liners and Hylton’s charisma. They offer a window into why the song made the cut for the evening of the thousands Hylton has probably sung in her life. Though half the program is made of numbers she’s never sang publically before.
Hylton has a versatile voice that is at home with the brassy lounge classics like “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” by Irving Berlin or “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter, to the bright sounds of Broadway with “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat, and “If I were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls. She does throw it a few operatic numbers, just to keep her voice limber and remind us how at home she is in a range very few people can sing, from the lingering high notes of “Quando m’en vo” from La bohème by Puccini to the arpeggios of “Ah, fuggi il traditor” from Don Giovanni by Mozart.
Reenie Codelka accompanies on the piano and plays with emotion and mastery. In an evening of highlights, it’s hard to pick just one, but “Mon Dieu” by Charles Dumont showcased her ability to mine a song for every emotional nuance and “Send In the Clowns” from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is pure beauty. It takes many years not only of vocal experience but also of life to pull off that song.
This is one of my favorites shows at the In Series. The format freed the performers and the thread that stitches the show together is pure joy, backed by rare technical proficiency and Fleta Hylton’s simply beautiful voice.
Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
What I Wanted to Sing When I Grew Up has one more performance on Saturday, January 24 2015 at 8 PM at the In Series performing at Source — 1835 14th Street. NW in Washington, DC. For tickets call (202) 204-7763, or purchase them online.