By Kenneth Jones
10 Jan 2013
The trio billed as The Three Crooners — George Bugatti, Marcus Goldhaber and Joe Shepherd — sing from Arlen's 20th-century songbook, which includes classics from the M-G-M film "The Wizard of Oz," in an evening accen-tchu-ated with behind-the-scenes video footage.
Produced by Yellow Brick Productions in association with Shea Arender, Steven Colucci and Jerry Rosenberg, The Wonderful Wizard of Song — seen in 18 cities including a month-long run at the Debbie Reynolds Theatre in Las Vegas — has direction and musical staging by Gene Castle.
Performing in addition to The Three Crooners is Antoinette Henry. This marks the show's New York City debut. The original concept is by Nigel Wright, Sam Arlen and George Bugatti, "with special thanks to Harold Arlen's son Sam Arlen for all archival and historical content."
According to the creators, "The Wonderful Wizard of Song moves from The Cotton Club, thru Harold Arlen's Hollywood Years to Broadway, sharing inside stories of how some of the world's most beloved songs were created as well as sharing rare behind the scenes footage from 'The Wizard of Oz' taken by Harold Arlen himself."
The Three Crooners are headed by creator George Bugatti, an American singer, pianist, songwriter and recording artist. He is also co-founder, along with Sam Arlen, of The Harold Arlen Foundation/American Songbook Foundation.
Marcus Goldhaber has appeared in Manhattan at Birdland, The Kitano, The Metropolitan Room, Iridium, The Laurie Beechman, The Cutting Room, The Makor/Steinhardt Center, The Carnegie Club and The Lenox Lounge as well as in Boston, Chicago, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Joe Shepherd is from College Station, TX, and has his BFA in Dance from Sam Houston State University. He has danced professionally in Houston, TX, with modern companies Hope Stone and NobleMotion. He has worked in regional theatre, performing with Theatre Under the Stars and other Texas venues.
Regionally, Antoinette Henry has played Ethel Waters in The Melody Lingers On, Martha Fae Williams in All American Girls, Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie and more. She was also named one of the top Black Bloggers to watch in 2012 by The Root.com.
The show's musical director is Andrew Smithson. Arrangements for the four-piece onstage band are by Steve Rawlins. The creative team also includes set and lighting designer Josh Iacovelli, costume designer Amy Pedigo and additional artistic scenic designer Steve Colucci. Jessimeg Productions is general manager.
Arlen (1906-86) began playing with local bands, movie houses, vaudeville troupes and cabaret as a teenager in his home town of Buffalo, NY. His early collaboration with Ted Koehler, beginning in 1930, lead to writing such hits as "Between the Devil and the Deep blue Sea" and "I've Got the World On a String" for the famed Cotton Club. In 1939 he won the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow," and later earned more Academy Award nominations, including one for "The Man That Got Away" from "A Star is Born."
"Over the Rainbow" was named one of the "Songs of the Century" by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The performance schedule for The Wonderful Wizard of Song is Mondays at 7 PM, Wednesday at 2 PM and Thursday at 8 PM.
St. Luke's Theatre is at 308 W. 46th Street. Tickets at $69.50 & $39.50, and are available through TeleCharge.com or (212) 239-6200.
For more information, visit thewonderfulwizardofsong.com.