Cabaret singers Linda Purl and Lee Lessack shone on July 31, 2015 in their concert tribute to Johnny Mercer, appropriately titled Too Marvelous for Words. In the delightfully-intimate new venue AMP by Strathmore, Purl and Lessack enchanted the audience with their skill and enthusiasm for the prolific songwriter that was Johnny Mercer.
Television favorite Linda Purl, best known for her roles as Charlene Matlock on Matlock and Fonzie’s fiancée Ashley Pfister on Happy Days, is also completely at home in the theatre and on the concert stage, having performed on Broadway and at various prestigious regional theatres around the country and recorded various CDs of standards from the American Songbook.
Lee Lessack is a favorite on the international cabaret scene, touring extensively with his concerts of Broadway and jazz standards, many of which he has recorded. Together, Lessack and Purl perform concert tributes to both Irving Berlin as well as Johnny Mercer.
The night opened with the appropriate duet “My Shining Hour,” as the next hour or so was indeed a most shining hour, filled with Mercer’s lovely music interpreted by these skilled singers. Purl’s rendition of “That Old Black Magic” showed off her throaty voice, while Lessack’s clear, warm voice made “Out of This World” a special treat. Their easy warmth and comfort around each other was clear as they bantered and shared interesting stories about Johnny Mercer.
The clearly-strong relationship between the two makes their duets all the better, especially on the humorous songs “Whatcha-Ma-Call-It” and “Air-Minded Executive” as they are able to laugh and trade lyrics without missing a beat. Other humorous songs, such as Lessack’s rendition of some of the “lost” verses to “Too Marvelous for Words” or Purl’s bright rendition of “Goody Goody” had the audience in stitches.
Yet no tribute to Johnny Mercer is complete without his most famous songs and tonight was no exception. Purl had the audience in the palm of her hand with her brassy version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” and then showed the softer side with her emotional, sincere rendition of the Mercer/Manilow collaboration “When October Goes.”
The closing number, a medley-duet of Mercer/Henry Mancini collaborations—“Days of Wine and Roses,” “Charade,” and of course “Moon River”—was one of the highlights of the night. Purl and Lessack held nothing back as their voices soared on the final notes of “Moon River,” delighting the audience to no end.
The clear affection that Lessack and Purl have for Mercer and his music was apparent in every song they sang, making the concert a real treat for everyone in the audience as they watched and heard these skilled singers interpret songs they so clearly enjoy and love. It was the perfect way to spend a lovely summer’s night!
Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.
Too Marvelous for Words: The Songs of Johnny Mercer has another performance tonight, Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 8 PM at AMP by Strathmore – 11810 Grand Park Avenue – Suite 400 – in North Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 581-5100, or purchase them online.