Wesla Whitfield, the San Francisco chanteuse who has interpreted show tunes and American pop in concert halls, cabarets and an Off-Broadway show, sings of Tinseltown in Hooray for Hollywood, at the Geary Theatre in San Francisco, April 22.
The American Conservatory Theatre concert features songs from classic Hollywood movies. She sings with the Mike Greensill Trio and a brass quartet, Klingle Horns. Songs include "I Only Have Eyes For You," "Jeepers, Creepers," "All the Way," "Alfie," and more.
ACT's Geary Theatre is at 405 Geary Street in San Francisco. Tickets for the 8 PM show are $14-$50. For information, call (415) 749-2ACT or visit www.act-sfbay.org.
New for the singer in 1998 was the spelling of her first name, which used to be spelled "Weslia" and was always supposed to be pronounced "Wesla," as it is among family and friends. But after years of people calling her Wes-lee-uh (because of the obvious spelling) she finally changed it to avoid confusion. Most of her dozen or so recordings bear the name Weslia Whitfield. As early as 1990, Whitfield was opening for Michael Feinstein concerts, singing a hip, optimistic version of "The Trolley Song." Her early independent recordings are harder to come by, but such discs as "Lucky to Be Me" and "High Standards" are common in record stores' cabaret or vocal sections, particularly on the coasts.
Whitfield's Off-Broadway debut, Life Upon the Wicked Stage, played Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 1998. Her following in New York is rooted in her 1993 debut at (and subsequent returns to) the Algonquin Hotel. Among her tales in her Off Broadway show was the rarely discussed, 1977 random shooting that left her unable to walk. In Wicked Stage, Whitfield again worked with longtime pianist-arranger Mike Greensill. Whitfield rose from being a singing waitress, to singing for San Francisco Opera and then to cabarets and boites around the country.
— By Kenneth Jones