Musical Masterworks of Broadway Gala Glitters With Performances from Santino Fontana, Ryan Silverman, Brooke Shields and Rebecca Luker

By Steven Suskin
13 May 2014

Ryan Silverman
Ryan Silverman

John Doyle and friends took the stage of the Hudson Theatre May 12 for the Classic Stage Company benefit Musical Masterworks: Kern, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Hart. 

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Given that Tony winner Doyle (of Sweeney Todd and Company) is a master at this sort of thing — and that his friends include some top musical theatre talents — the 90-minute program was filled with Broadway highlights.

The Classic Stage Repertory was established in 1967, and has been in its cozy home on East 13th Street for 40 years. This past season has seen productions of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Brecht's A Man's a Man, and The Heir Apparent (which is CSC's third recent hit by David Ives, following Venus in Fur and The School for Lies). Doyle staged the acclaimed 2013 production of Sondheim's Passion and is now an associate artistic director of the company.



The next CSC season will begin with Doyle's new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro. The frequently-discussed link between Sondheim and his lyric-writing mentor Hammerstein — and, by association, with Hammerstein's composers Kern and Rodgers as well as Rodgers' lyricist Hart — formed the basis of the evening, which ranged from late Kern to late Sondheim.

The night started and ended with today's premiere Kern singer, Rebecca Luker. "Why Was I Born?," which Luker performs regularly, remains exquisite. She closed the evening with "Come Home," an anthem-like ballad from Allegro which one imagines has never been sung so well and to such strong effect. Howard McGillin, who is often paired with Luker, sang "All the Things You Are" and later joined her for "With a Song in My Heart." Mary Beth Peil sang "Bewitched" and recreated her performance of "Hello, Young Lovers" from The King and I, which she played opposite Yul Brynner at the Broadway in 1985.

Brooke Shields sang "Ev'rything I've Got" and "The Blue Room," accompanied on the latter by music director Mary Mitchell Campbell and Doyle himself. Judy Kuhn performed "My Heart Stood Still" and a slow version of "Lover," as well as reprising her magnificent "Loving You" from the CSC Passion.

The younger generation was represented by Ryan Silverman (also from Passion), singing "Where or When" and Allegro's "You Are Never Away"; Alexandra Silber, singing "Do I Hear A Waltz?" and "If I Loved You"; Santino Fontana, recreating his performance of "Loneliness of Evening" from Cinderella; and the quartet of Lauren Molina, Diana DiMarzio, Jessica Tyler Wright and Jessica Pfitsch — all playing instruments — with Malcolm Gets for "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and "Johnny One Note." Gets also soloed on "The Sound of Music." Most impressive, and sharing the honors of the evening with Ms. Luker, was Jeremy Jordan who delivered a pristine "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" and a strong-voiced "Soliloquy."

Let it be added that the Hudson Theatre, on West 44th Street east of Broadway, appears to be in pristine condition. The intimate, three-level house was built in 1903 by producer Henry B. Harris, who died on the Titanic (and whose widow is a character in the current Act One). Home of the long-running hit Arsenic and Old Lace, the theatre fell out of use in 1968. Now incorporated into the Millenium Broadway Hotel and used as an event and party space, the Hudson compares favorably to several still-operating Broadway theatres.