Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Spector, who received a Tony nomination for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and also played the part of Frankie Valli over 1,500 times in Jersey Boys and Barrett, who has appeared in several Broadway productions, stated that the impetus for this concert was based on two experiences in their past. They were invited to perform at a salute to songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman and saw the love and joy the 90-year-old Alan had for his 87-year-old wife when he serenaded her during the evening, bringing tears to their eyes. During Beautiful, Spector had numerous conversations with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who are featured in the show along with the many hit songs they composed, and Spector also portrayed Mann in the production. While they are still married today, Mann and Weill had several rough patches during their married life and thinking of the Bergmans and other famous songwriting couples made Spector and Barrett wonder, "What's it like to be married to a fellow artist? Why do some couples make it while other's don't?" and the idea for this show was born.
The evening was well balanced, with numerous upbeat tunes and several introspective ballads. There were also several tuneful medleys of hits, all of which were expertly delivered by Spector and Barrett who both exhibit a wide range of vocal abilities plus a firm control of the material. Their voices mesh well together and the five-piece band, plus two backup vocalists, delivered a wall of sound that had a clear, warm balance due to the excellent sound system at the SCPA.
The concert featured numbers that touched upon the many phases of relationships and included a variety of song styles from pop and rock to R&B and even a bit of country. Quiet numbers, like Mann and Weil's "Somewhere Out There" (with James Horner) and the Bergman's "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" (with Michel Legrand), were nice counterpoints to the many upbeat numbers in the show.
While there were numerous medleys that included such hits from the past as "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," it was really the songs that were originally performed by the couples featured that had the most resonance. These included the Ike and Tina Turner hit "Rolling on the River," which featured Barrett commanding the stage, and a superb pairing of Paul and Linda McCartney's "Live and Let Die" and "Band on the Run" that allowed Spector to display his expert piano skills. Spector also showed his fine-tuned guitar abilities in a lively duet of Johnny and June Carter Cash's song "Jackson" that was preceded by Spector reading a letter that Johnny wrote to June late in their lives that was full of love.
Barrett showed her musical skills and played a small guitar with Spector on piano for a sweet and touching take on "All I Have to Do Is Dream." Other highlights included an introspective take on Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan's "Downtown Train" and rousing versions of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "River Deep Mountain High."
While there weren't any true misfires in the evening, a segment that featured the duo dressed up as Sonny and Cher worked better in the delivery of the funny, sarcastic patter the duo was famous for and not their ability to mimic the pair's singing styles. Also, an encore of Beyoncé and Jay Z's "Crazy in Love," while fun and infectious, especially with how it showed off the rap abilities of Spector and Barrett, could have used a slight introduction for those who may not have heard the song before.
Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, March 9th 2017. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org
Music Director/Piano: Adam Ben-David, Drums: Damien Bassman, Guitar: Aurelien Budynek, Bass: Mat Fields, Sax: David Mann, backup vocalists: Rachel Stern and John Edwards