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May 4, 2015:

Berlin to Rome reviewed by Rob Stevens

Kritzerland’s 57th show, Berlin to Rome, was not an invasion plan launched by the Third Reich. Presented on Sunday, May 3 at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal in North Hollywood it featured the songs of composers/lyricists Irving Berlin and Harold Rome, thus creating the evening’s title. Irving Berlin was one of the most prolific American songwriters. During his 60-year career he wrote the score for 19 Broadway shows, 18 films and an estimated 1,500 songs. Producer/host Bruce Kimmel narrowed the 1,500 down to about 15, choosing well known standards as well as relatively unknown tunes.

Harold Rome was a lot less prolific than Irving Berlin and most people today don’t remember him, his songs or his ten or so musicals but Kimmel chose a half dozen of his songs which displayed his versatility. Rome’s biggest Broadway success was 1954’s Fanny which when turned into a 1961 film lost all its songs but kept Rome’s music as dramatic underscoring. Robert Yacko showed why that was a terrible mistake when he delivered the heartfelt title song. Adorable young Sydney DeMaria sang a spunky version of “Be Kind to Your Parents” from the same show. Brittney Bertier got to show off her comic charms with the flirty “Shopping Around” from 1952’s Wish You Were Here as well as “A Funny Thing Happened” from 1962’s I Can Get It for You Wholesale. The latter show is best known today as having been Barbra Streisand’s Broadway debut and the show in which she met future husband Elliott Gould. Adrienne Visnic displayed her comic chops with probably the song with the most product placements ever, “Nobody Makes a Pass at Me” from the 1937 Broadway revue Pins and Needles. Yacko later showed why the whole idea of making a musical stage version of Gone with the Wind was a disastrous idea when he sang one of Rhett Butler’s songs “Two of a Kind”. A bit of genetic history was made when Madison Claire Parks sambaed and rumbaed her way through “South America, Take It Away,” a number her grandmother Betty Garrett introduced in 1946’s Call Me Mister.

Parks and Damon Kirsche had started the show off with the charming duet “A Lovely Day for a Walk” which was an unpublished Berlin song until Kimmel discovered it when he was allowed access to a treasure trove of Berlin’s “trunk songs” and recorded a 2-CD set of them. Visnic showed her versatility by first doing Berlin’s comic “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” from Annie Get Your Gun. She returned later in the show to beautifully deliver a put-together of two lovely ballads from the same show—“They Say it’s Wonderful” and “I Got Lost in His Arms”. Parks also did a lovely job with her enchanting vocals on her put-together of Berlin’s wistful ballads “What’ll I Do” and “Always”. Yacko got to display his leading man charms with a triple put-together of “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,’ “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and “Cheek to Cheek.” The only thing missing was the tux and the chorus line of high stepping dancers. Special Guest Terri White raised the roof and received the biggest ovation of the night with her bluesy, belting, jazzy take on “Blue Skies”. Kirsche was in full crooner mode as he deftly warbled the put-together of “Reaching for the Moon” and “How Deep is the Ocean.” He also sensuously sang the languid “Lazy,” while channeling his inner Marilyn Monroe. The latter sang a memorable and steamy version in the film There’s No Business Like Show Business. That title song and anthem of performers everywhere ended the evening with an audience sing-a-long. The always amazing John Boswell provided his usual excellent accompaniment on piano.

Next Kritzerland will feature the songs of non-related composers Leonard Bernstein and Elmer Bernstein and will be held on Monday, June 8.

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