Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Randy Graff at The Kennedy Center

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Tony Award-winning (City of Angels) Broadway, concert, and cabaret artist Randy Graff dazzled the crowd Friday night at the Kennedy Center’s intimate Terrace Theater. Graff is utterly unique and surprising in her fresh and spontaneous sounding delivery of the most well-known standards. As she cascaded through a set of twelve songs (including several beautifully arranged medleys), the sheer range of her resonant and piercingly vibrant voice was a pleasure to hear.

Randy Graff. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.
Randy Graff. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Entering the stage in a tailored and striking back outfit, Graff delivered the goods in a concert that mixed songs written by or performed by Brooklyn-born artists. This concert paid off further dividends as she interspersed sophisticated, sly and urbane comic patter about topics as varied as her dating her steady boyfriend, hanging out in the 60s with a group of rebellious friends and her unabashed musical idolization of Barbra Streisand.

Graff was accompanied throughout by her husband of sixteen years, Tim Weil.  Weil also serves as the Musical Director and is responsible for the stunning arrangements.

The evening began with a playful and wistful rendition of the classic “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Graff played with each word with a carefree sense of abandon and glee.

Graff remarked how honored she was to create the role of Fantine in the original production of Les Miserables at The Kennedy Center. She also mentioned how pleased she was to play the Countess in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at the 2002 Sondheim festival.

Graff sang a swinging rendition of “Comes Once in a Lifetime” and this was reinforced by a jazzy piano interlude by Weil. Her cover of the classic “I’ll Be Seeing You” was haunting and reflective. Her resonant chest tones enhanced the mood of this piece as she drew out the closing lines of the song.

A very creatively arranged medley of 60’s pop hits livened up the pace as Graff sang snippets from “One Fine Day,” “This Magic Moment,” “Basa Nova,” and “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” with gusto and verve.

Another evocative medley ensued as Graff sang Burt Bacharach and Hall David’s “Close to You,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and (the gloriously written) “Alfie” (ending with the words “I Believe in Love” in order to make a stirring conclusion to the arrangement).

Next, the singer brought the house down with her classic rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. All the forlorn fatalism of the song was brought to the fore by Graff.

“Somebody Loves Me” was given an enervating interpretation, while “Isn’t it a Pity?” highlighted the superb piano playing of Mr. Weil.

Graff sang the comic and verbally intricate showstopper “Count on Me” from Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s City of Angels. Graff sang the song a wonderful sense of comic timing and deadpan humor.

The classic theatrical song “What I Did for Love” (from A Chorus Line) closed the set. Graff sang the first two-thirds of the song in a hushed, almost plaintive tone and, then, audaciously and effectively burst into full vocal belting to heighten the effect of the closing lines.

For a well-deserved encore, Randy Graff sang the Jule Styne classic “People” from Funny Girl and sang it with style, sensitivity and panache.

Randy Graff is a distinctive and astounding talent!

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Randy Graff was performed on Friday, October 30, 2015 at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater – 2700 F Stree, NW, in Washington, DC. For future events, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, and go to their calendar.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.