Review: Broadway and country music showcased on local stages over weekend

Posted by admin on March 11, 2014

By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner

March 11, 2014

It is not unusual for to attend two or even three separate performing events on any given weekend and most of the time they could not be more disparate. Such was the case when this writer sawStephanie J. Block at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club Friday and a Dance Kaleidoscope concert, “Kings & Queens of Country,” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre Upperstage on Saturday.

Block’s appearance at the Cabaret marked the third time she has performed in Indianapolis. The first time was when she was a member of the cast of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops concert featuring the music of lyricist of Alain Boubil and composer Claude-Michel Shonberg in Oct. 2011. The second time was when she performed in a Cabaret fundraiser later that same month and year.

Block is an established Broadway performer whose credits include “Wicked,” “Anything Goes,” “9 to 5: The Musical,” “The Pirate Queen,” “The Boy from Oz” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” for which she received a Tony nomination. Most recently she starred in “Little Miss Sunshine,” an off-Broadway musical based on the Academy Award nominated 2006 film.

Pianist Ben Cohn, who is also Block’s music director, and cellist Marjorie Hanna accompanied Block in her set which consisted primary of Broadway show tunes. Highlights of Block’s program included her interpretation of Scot Alan’s “Never Never Land,” the patter song “Invention,” Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick out of You,” a duet with Dolly Parton (whose voice was on a track) of “I Will Always Love You” and “Children Will Listen” from “Into The Woods.” Block’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was made distinctive by Hanna’s soulful accompaniment on the cello.

“Making Good,” a song written for “Wicked,” but later dropped, was the first of a three songs from the show performed by Block, who told the story of how she was in consideration for the part of Elphaba during its development stage but was later replaced with Idina Menzel. The others were “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good.” Providing a clue as to why she deserved her Tony nomination was Block’s performance of “Writing on the Wall” from “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Block, who possesses a vibrant mezzo soprano voice, impeccable phrasing, enviable range and formidable stage presence, gave a vocal and dramatic performance worthy of an entertainer with her credentials and talent. The only drawback to an otherwise entertaining show was Block’s often lengthy commentary about her career which only served to slow down the pace of an act that might have been more satisfying had she concentrated more on her music and less on her bio.

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