Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Anne of Green Gables
Laura Benanti first burst upon the Broadway scene at the ripe old age of 19, as Maria in the 1997 revival of The Sound of Music, taking over from Rebecca Luker after being her understudy. Since then she has appeared in a large number of musicals and plays, garnering four Tony Award nominations, winning one for Best Supporting Actress as Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy, the Patti Lupone revival.
In this recent concert, Ms. Benanti was so comfortable engaging with the audience that she strolled onto the Sarasota Opera House stage, sans opening song, to discuss her hair tribulations in the Florida humidity. From there she launched into a three-song salute to her last starring musical role on Broadway, Amalia in Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joe Masteroff's She Loves Me, consisting of "Tonight at Eight," "Dear Friend," and "Vanilla Ice Cream." Other songs she performed which illuminate her Broadway career included "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady (she is to step into the leading role in a few weeks in the current Lincoln Center revival), "The Sound of Music," and "Lovesick" (from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). Non-theater highlights included "Both Sides Now" and Harry Chapin's "Mr. Tanner," which is featured on her "In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention: Live at 54 Below" album. I am glad she sang this because one it is my favorite Harry Chapin songs.
The show ended with a medley of songs that Ms. Benanti's mother had shared with her and which she in turn is sharing with her daughter, which included "Old Man River," "I Got You Babe," and "Respect." The finale encore found Ms. Benanti center stage, sans mic, for an a capella reading of what I believe to be Kander and Ebb's single greatest song, "A Quiet Thing." It was breathtakingly beautiful.
Cabaret by the Bay has future shows in the works, so Sarasota audiences have something new to look forward to.
Presented on September 21, 2018, at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information call 941-366-8450 or visit www.sarasotaopera.org.