Peisha McPhee has been a renowned cabaret artist for years, playing clubs in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and other major cities. She has also been a vocal coach at L. A. City College, her own McPhee International Vocal Studios as well as with TV’s American Idol. Sergiu Tuhutziu is a classical pianist, born in Romania and now based in London, who has played in concert halls around the world. They met on FaceBook and decided to work together, initially rehearsing on Skype. Their first collaboration, Chopin Meets Broadway, finally debuted at Catalina Bar and Grill on September 30. She specializes in Broadway showtunes and the Great American Songbook. He specializes in the Grand Romantic Repertoire. Together they make beautiful musical memories together. McPhee has a knack for working with exceptional pianists—Mel Dangcil, Michael Orland and now Tuhutziu. His playing at times seemed nearly symphonic, as if instead of being merely a soloist, he was fronting an orchestra. His mastery of the ivories made the baby grand sound extremely lush. McPhee was in great voice after her long absence from local stages. They got the night off on the right note with a soaring rendition of Bernstein/Sondheim’s “Tonight” and they had fun with Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano.” McPhee showed her acting prowess in Jason Robert Brown’s comic song of romantic regret “Stars and the Moon.” She also seductively worked her way through the naughty Gershwin/DeSylva classic “Do It Again” with Tuhutziu beautifully segueing into Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini Variation 18,” better known today as the love theme from the film Somewhere in Time. It was the perfect blend of what these two artists do best. Another highpoint was McPhee singing Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” while Tuhutziu interspersed the composer’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The duo also combined on Chopin’s “Minute Waltz,” he first playing solo then accompanying her as she attempted to sing the ditty in 60 seconds. McPhee’s daughters, Katharine and Adriana, joined her for the classic Sondheim trio “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” Tuhutziu was a marvel as his fingers raced over the keys playing Mozart’s “Turkish March.” Cellist Bingxia Lu joined him for a haunting rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise.” The show ended on the hopeful notes of Sondheim’s “Being Alive.” It was a special evening and will be repeated on October 1. There are still some kinks to be worked out in the format. McPhee did leave the stage for a costume change during one classical number but for a few others she just awkwardly stayed on stage in the shadows. Perhaps putting a couple of the classical pieces side by side with McPhee offstage would end that sense of audience anticipation of her joining in on the number.
October 1, 2016: