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.
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.