The In Series brings to life some of the funnest and iconic music of the 20th century by George Gershwin with most song lyrics by his brother Ira. They started out on Broadway before making it big on the big screen in Hollywood’s Golden Age. For this concert cabaret, six singers, pianist, and Music Director Reenie Codelka, and bass player Ephriam Wolfolk take the stage before a cityscape backdrop, silver palm trees, and curtains full of music notes on a set by Greg Stevens lit by Stefan Johnson.
Artistic Director Carla Hübner dedicated this performance to Fred Lee who created this program for the In Series 20 years ago. He recently passed away and this homage to The American Songbook is in honor of him.
The performers are tricked out in purple and sparkles and dapper suits by Costume Designer Donna Breslin and tackle these songs with passion and skill. Most of them are opera singers and their take on the many songs of Porgy & Bess are a definite highlight. Director Abel Lopez keeps it moving with little stories of love and war to string the songs together and add visual interest throughout the concert.
They trade solos and duets and company numbers as they trip chronologically through Gershwin’s career – from the miniscule royalties of the off-Broadway shows in the 20’s, through the first Pullitzer Prize ever awarded a musical, to blockbuster movies before George’s untimely death in ’37.
Laura Wehrmeyer Fuentes takes on “Someone to Watch Over Me’ and “The Lorelei” in a clarion soprano. Bryan Jackson has a deep voice suited to the jazzy “Somebody Loves Me,” and the classic “A Woman is a Sometime Thing” from Porgy & Bess.
Detra Battle has a classical voice for “Summertime” from the same opera but can handle the more pop “Embraceable You.” Radiant in purple, Pam Ward kills it on the ballad “The Man I Love,” and the Gershwin classic, “I Got Rhythm.”
Kenneth Derby tackles the poignant “Foggy Day” and a couple of his most famous duets like “S’wonderful” and “Shall We Dance.” Another standout was the duet between Derby and Jase Parker on “Blah, Blah, Blah” – a send up of the typical love song. Parker has a booming tenor for his solos “But Not for Me” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” He also has an impressive dance solo involving the splits and split-kicks. That and more sedate choreography by
Angelisa Gillyard peppers the numbers, particularly the company-wide songs like “Of Thee I Sing,” “They Can’t Take that Away From Me,” and one of George Gershwin’s final songs – “Love is Here to Stay.”
One thing is for sure, America’s love of the Gershwins is here to stay. George’s syncopated rhythms, addictive melodies, humor and pathos, and Ira’s brilliant lyrics will live on forever.
By George, By Ira, By Gershwin is ‘S Wonderful.’
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
By George, By Ira, By Gershwin plays through December 20, 2015 at The In Series performing at Source —1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets call (202) 204-7763, or purchase them online.