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August 7, 2018:

Anything Goes–The Songs of Cole Porter reviewed by Rob Stevens

Composer/lyricist Cole Porter wrote the scores for two dozen Broadway musicals and contributed songs to several Broadway revues. He wrote dozens of songs that remain popular today, over 50 years after his death, many of which are considered part of the Great American Songbook. On Sunday, August 5 Kritzerland presented its 90th monthly cabaret show at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal in North Hollywood. It was the second time host/producer Bruce Kimmel highlighted the words and music of Mr. Porter and it was a de-lovely time. Anything Goes was the title of the evening and it was also the spirit of the evening as Porter ballads were intermixed with up-tempo Porter tunes, comic ditties were sprinkled amongst love songs.

Sami Staitman started the evening off belting the title song of the evening and the 1934 hit musical Anything Goes. She later returned with a sexy, saucy, sizzling take on “Too Darn Hot”. Damon Kirsche, who was born to sing Porter and just about everything else in the Great American Songbook, lent his mellow crooner’s tone to a put-together of “In The Still of the Night” and “Night and Day”. He got to spice things up a bit with his mischievous rendition of “Let’s Misbehave”. The legendary cabaret artist Andrea Marcovicci brought her special flair to the flirty put-together of “Why Can’t You Behave” and “Always True to You Darling in My Fashion” from Porter’s greatest hit, Kiss Me Kate. She later worked her magic on two more obscure Porter tunes—“Love Letter” and “Wait for the Moon”.

I have watched Daniel Thomas Bellusci, first place winner of LA’s Next Great Stage Star 2017, mature and gain confidence in his several appearances on the Kritzerland stage. This Porter outing was his best by far. His voice softly caressed the lyrics of the put-together of two songs from Can Can–“I Love Paris” and “It’s All Right with Me”. He showed his comic side in “Don’t Fence Me In” and proved he could tangle with a tongue twister in “Let’s Not Talk About Love.” I have always thought Heather Lee was one of the funniest performers I ever had the pleasure to see. Her April in Company, her Philia in Forum, her just about anyone in just about anything. Her comic timing is spot on and sublime as she proved once again in her trio of Porter songs starting with “I’m Unlucky at Gambling” and ending with the body part infused “The Physician.” But it was her interpretation of Ivanka Trump singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” that brought the house down as she sang to photos of Trump, Jared and even Vlad.

Musical director/pianist Richard Allen provided great accompaniment throughout and was ably replaced at the keyboard by Shelly Markham who accompanied Ms. Marcovicci. Special Guest Artist for the evening was legendary guitarist Grant Geissman who, on acoustic guitar, accompanied Kimmel on High Society’s standard “True Love.” Fingering his electric guitar and accompanied by Allen on piano, Geissman gave a memorable rendition of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” It turned out to be a memorable and legendary evening for a legendary composer. Porter’s the Top!

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