After a six year run at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal, producer Bruce Kimmel has moved his monthly cabaret series, now entitled Kritzerland Upstairs at Vitello’s. For his 91st show and to celebrate his eighth anniversary, he presented a potpourri of musical theatre/film songs entitled The Songs That Got Away VIII on Sunday, September 2 at Vitello’s Italian restaurant in Studio City. It was a glorious, joyous, fun filled evening, one of Kritzerland’s best of the year. Kimmel, who recently announced he is ending the series when it hits triple digits a year from now, seems to be pulling out all the stops as he presents his final 10 shows. Usually his shows have a cast of five who each sing thrice and a guest star or maybe two who each do a solo. For #91, he had a quartet of guest artists. Eric Petersen, recently on Broadway in Escape to Margaritaville, had previously spent nearly a year as the lead in Broadway’s School of Rock and performed the high energy “Mount Rock” from that show to the audience’s delight.
Kimmel recently directed a sold out 90th Birthday Tribute to songwriter Richard Sherman in Beverly Hills. For the enjoyment of those who missed it (most of us), he brought some of those performers to the Kritzerland stage. Little Peyton Kirkner had fun with the “Shermanized Word Medley,” while Autumn Jessel and Maggie Balleweg channeled a pair of twin Hayley Millses with “Let’s Get Together” from The Parent Trap. In 1973 Richard Sherman, along with his brother Robert, wrote the screenplay and songs for a musical version of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. The star of the film, Johnny Whitaker, proved to still be in fine voice as he sang one of the songs he introduced, “If’n I Was God” as well as another from the score, “River Song”.
An anniversary show usually means a new What If song from songwriter/parodist Kimmel. This year Robert Yacko got to explore the eye patch wearing Macheath as he performed the what if instead of writing The Threepenny Opera Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht wrote Annie. “Oh the orphans, scrub the floors, dear” on to Leapin’ Lizards and Daddy Warbucks. Yacko returned later in the show to give a taste of the evolution of an eleven o’clock number. In this instance it was Stephen Sondheim rewriting “Happily Ever After” into “Marry Me a Little” and finally into the transcendent anthem “Being Alive” from Company. Kimmel teamed up with Kirkner to introduce a new song, “Little Miracles,” from his score for A Carol Christmas, a world premiere, with book by Doug Haverty, which will play Group Rep Theatre in November and December.
Roger Befeler added his dulcet tones to both “The Happy Time” and “Something’s Coming” as well as teaming up with his spouse, Kim Huber, for the lively “Big D”. Huber, who recently starred in the stage version of Freaky Friday for Music Theatre Wichita, delivered a strong take on “After All of This and Everything” from that score. Huber proved once again what a truly marvelous talent she is with her rendition of the Michel Legrand/Marilyn & Alan Bergman standard “On My Way to You” which had previously been recorded by Steisand, Mathis, Uggams and others but it’s the Huber version I would want to own. Also showcasing her formidable talent was Jenna Lea Rosen who went from the uptempo charm of “Gee, But It’s Good to Be Here,” originally introduced by Ethel Merman, to her hauntingly evocative take on the plaintive lyrics of Amanda McBroom’s “Ship in a Bottle”. Brava divas! Happy Anniversary Kritzerland!