Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's reviews of Once and Ah, Wilderness!, Eddie's reviews of The Rover, Ghost Quartet and Heromonster, and Patrick's reviews of Into the Woods and The Hypocrites' Pirates of Penzance and The Creature.
Russ Lorenson's new show entitled Fanilow: One Man's Pursuit of Music and Passion made its debut at Feinstein's at the Nikko on October 22 with Russ taking center stage along with a great back-up group of singers and a quintet of solid musicians led by Joe Wicht presenting the music of Barry Manilow. Joe Wicht also did many of the arrangements. Russ Lorenson in the past has paid tribute to Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin. His new album called "The Holiday Spirit" will be out just in time for the holidays.
Fanilow is a different show from the tributes in the past since it does not give highlights of Manilow's career. Lorenson decided to bare his soul and tell about the ups and down of his life and his struggles from childhood to the present time. The hook is that as a child Russ saved up his money to purchase his first album by Barry Manilow, and when the second album came out, his mother purchased it for him. Russ would go to his room and play these albums constantly when his parents were arguing.
Russ Lorenson has always been billed the "San Francisco Favorite Crooner" and I am inclined to agree with this. His technique has origins in crooning, he has a velvety quality on his ballads, and he can belt out a tune with the best of them.
To start the show, Lorenson came onto the stage wearing a flaming orange silk shirt with black pants, something Manilow might wear. With pitch perfect resonance he sang the upbeat Manilow/Marty Panzer song, "It's a Miracle." Russ had impeccable vocal phrasing on songs identified with Manilow, such as "Sandra", "One Voice," and "A Little Traveling Music, Please." His voice was awe inspiring when singing the poignant "Life Will Go On." Russ rocked out "Copacabana" with the terrific backup singers Chave Alexander, Jesse Cortez and Lambert Moss.
Joe Wicht led the small group of musicians, consisting of Paul Eastburn on bass, Lance Dresser on drums, Brendan Getzell on guitar, and Dustin Hart on keyboards. Mike Shecora, a childhood friend, was a guest pianist on one of the numbers.
Russ Lorenson will be presenting his annual Christmas show at Feinstein's at the Nikko, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St, San Francisco, on December 7th. For a line-up of artists coming to Feinstein's go to http://www.hotelnikkosf.com
Alicia Teeter and William Giammona made their cabaret debut on October 23rd at the Society Cabaret in the Hotel Rex. Both are known for their melodious voices working together in regional theatre, including shows like Chicago, A Little Night Music, John and Jen and Parade. The cabaret show was aptly called Stage Spouse. Both are married to other people in real life.
The one hour plus show included 18 songs from Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Irvin Berlin, Andrew Lippa, and Jason Robert Brown. Alicia Teeter had vibrant vocal cords that sounded like Kelli O'Hara with a little Sutton Foster thrown in for good measure, while William Giamonna sings like Robert Goulet with a little bit of Len Cariou.
The couple opened the show with Sondheim's "The Little Things You Do Together" from Company. They interacted beautifully with their effervescent voices. Both then segued into Kander and Ebb's "We Both Reached for the Gun" from Chicago. They once again interrelated together and voiced their characters' points of view in a somewhat detached way, singing across or over top of each other. Throughout the performance they shared their experiences of performing on stage.
Alicia and Will said they were to appear in a production of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years but the American Conservatory Theatre secured the rights to the musical last season, so they could not perform the show. However, they performed "The Next Ten Minutes" from the musical and Alicia had pitch perfect resonance singing "A Summer in Ohio." Will shone in his solo rendition of "I Got Lost In His Arms" and "Too Late Now." Both were harmoniously energizing singing "Before and After You" and "One Second and a Million Miles" from Jason Robert Brown's The Bridges of Madison County. Both ended the session singing "A Fine Romance" and segueing into a "Just in Love" mashup.
Ken Brill ably assisted on the piano.
Bottom line: It was a grand night of singing with two wonderful artists of regional theatre. For a lineup of Society Cabaret go to www.societycabaret.com.