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Jason and Jerry

Jason-GraaeFunnyman extraordinaire Jason Graae, a veteran of Broadway and regional theater, also happens to be one of the finest singers of our generation, making him a stellar cabaret performer, unquestionably one of the best.

I regrettably missed two opportunities to see him perform this year—at Sterling’s Upstairs in Studio City and Burbank’s Colony Theatre—in “Perfect Hermany,” his joyous concert tribute to revered Broadway tunesmith Jerry Herman.

Thankfully, the sublime pleasures of that very special show are captured in a CD release from Kritzerland, which was recorded during the May performance at the Colony.

Tony winner Herman’s indelible canon of show music is highlighted by classic showstoppers (such as the title songs of  “Hello Dolly!” and “Mame,” and “La Cage Aux Folles”), stirring anthems (‘I Am What I Am”), glorious romantic ballads (“It Only Takes a Woman,” “I Promise You a Happy Ending”), stirring marches (“Before the Parade Passes By”), and plenty more. Even Herman’s least successful, most libretto-challenged shows such as “Mack and Mabel” and “Dear World” include some of the most terrific musical theater songs of the 20th century, and selections from those scores are thankfully represented here.

During the beloved lyricist-composer’s 80th birthday year, Graae’s mix of hilarious and charming patter and spirited renditions of Herman’s tunes comes across as a serendipitous blend of songwriter and performer. It’s almost as if Graae was born to interpret Herman’s songbook, and the obvious pleasure this impish performer derives from crooning these classic tunes is infectious.

SoCal Stages_blogWith the expert support of musical director-arranger-accompanist John Boswell, the songs sound fresh and vibrant, while conjuring glorious memories of the shows where they were introduced. Graae’s spontaneity and sense of humor always greatly enhance his performances, adding a warm glow to timelessly enjoyable material. Director Lee Tannen also warrants a hearty salute. This solo revue has been performed in San Francisco and New York as well, and is not to be missed, if other engagements are scheduled. Meanwhile, this wonderful CD is a great way to join in on the celebration.

--Les Spindle

 

 

 

 

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