Just in Time: The Songs of Betty Comden and Adolph Green
The Kritzerland cabaret series, which is generally offered once each month at the Federal restaurant and bar in North Hollywood, has scored once again with a deliciously entertaining revue. The single-night performance of "Just in Time: The Songs of Betty Comden and Adolph Green" on Apr. 7 included a rich array of songs written by the legendary duo of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, whose long list of shows featuring their lyrics, librettos and/or screenplays include the classic musical film "Singin’ in the Rain" (later adapted for the stage), "Bells are Ringing" (stage musical and film), "On the Town" (stage and screen), " Wonderful Town," "Applause" and many more.
Producer Bruce Kimmel and his associate producer, Adryan Russ, typically enlist a stellar list of performers to bring vintage show tunes to life in Michael Sterling’s lovely upstairs show room and restaurant, where the food is as delectable as the entertainment.
This offering including a particularly rich array of talent, including veteran singer/funny man Jason Graae, as well as Damon Kirsche, Madison Clare Parks (the vivacious young granddaughter of the late Betty Garrett), Cynthia Ferrer, Robert Yacko, Lisa Livesay, Jenna Rosen, and a welcome singing spot for host-producer Kimmel, who also produces the Kritzerland record label.
Under the crackerjack musical direction and piano accompaniment of Lloyd Cooper, the show quickly got down to business with Kirsche crooning the dynamic "Fireworks" from the Phil Silvers musical "Do Re Mi."
Kirsche also showed off his comic and vocal chops in "My Fortune is My Face" from the musical "Fade In...Fade Out." Narrator Kimmel told us this musical was originally out-grossing "Hello Dolly," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Funny Girl" on Broadway, until star Carol Burnett left the cast for a TV series that didn’t last.
According to Kimmel, by the time she returned, the show had lost its momentum, and closed shortly thereafter. (A really fun ingredient of these shows is Kimmel’s amusing and often fascinating patter, revealing intriguing historical tidbits about the shows and the original stars.) Kirsche’s soaring baritone voice was displayed to great advantage in the lovely "Lonely Town" (from "On the Town").
Graae graced us with his presence for one number only, but it was a doozy -- the delightfully off-key "Wrong Note Rag" (originated by Rosalind Russell in "Wonderful Town," the musical adaptation of "My Sister Eileen"), which he performed with a combination of vocals and a clarinet.
Kimmel took his turn center stage with a fine rendition of the lilting "Just in Time" from the memorable 1956 Judy Holliday tuner "Bells are Ringing," which sparkled on both stage and screen.
The sweet-voiced Livesay delivered another gem from this memorable 1960s show, the poignant "The Party’s Over" and the amusing "It’s a Lovely Relationship" with flair and style. She also excelled in "If" from the little-known "Two on the Aisle" and the saucy diva number, "Thanks a Lot But No Thanks" from the original MGM film musical, "It’s Always Fair Weather." (Kimmel shared with us the fact that the 1955 movie was less commercially successful than other screen tuners of the era, probably due to a story that was a bit more downbeat than musicals of the time.)
Talented Ferrer was delightful in three diverse numbers, the witty "One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose A Man," a classic comic number also originated by Russell in "Wonderful Town." She elicited solid laughs in "I Can Cook Too" from "On the Twentieth Century" and delivered the terrific "Make Someone Happy" (from "Do Re Mi") with panache.
Golden-voiced baritone Yacko was in top form with "Lucky To Be Me" from "On the Town" and the lovely "Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like" from "The Will Rogers Follies." He also clicked in two fine songs from the fairly obscure "Subways Are For Sleeping."
The prodigious Parks was luminous in singing some lesser known but excellent tunes, including one from "A Doll’s Life," the ill-fated musical inspired by Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House." Rosen closed the show on a perfect note-the spellbinding "Never Never Land" from "Peter Pan."