Monday, April 27, 2015
|Jake Broder as Ira Gershwin. Photos by Michael Lamont|
Ira is the focus of Joseph Vass’ musical play, Words By Ira Gershwin, now receiving a delicious staging at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. For a theatre geek like me who loves a good lyric more than I can express, this production is heavenly. It is a musical photo album that rewards the audience with one terrifically happy night at the theater.
Jake Broder takes on the role of the famous lyricist and narrates the evening. With humility and a sweet old-world charm, he shares the stories behind many of the songs he wrote with his brother, as well as others he collaborated with after George’s untimely death. I love behind-the-scenes stories and couldn’t get enough of it. It isn’t easy to carry an evening like this and Broder is that one-in-a-million character actor who makes it look easy.
|Jake Broder, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek|
To go along with the engaging narrative, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek emerge from the wings to provide the vocal counterpoint to the show. They’re accompanied by one of the best jazz combos you’ll hear on a stage anywhere in LA, consisting of musical director Kevin Toney at the piano, Terry Wollman on electric and acoustic guitar, John B. Williams on bass, and Greg Webster on drums.
For a little over two hours they showcase Ira’s unparalleled ability to write lyrics in the contemporary American language of the day. His up-tempo jazz standards, comedy songs, and rich ballads reveal an unparalleled range of emotion. No one could express the sentiment of unrequited love in a torch song like Ira. One of his finest, “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born, closes Act I of the show, and there are moments when Teek sounds exactly like Judy Garland, an unexpected surprise in an already gloriously-voiced performance. Rock also moves easily between styles, particularly turning his arias from Porgy and Bess into passionate showstoppers that make this musical evening ring with elegant sophistication.
|Elijah Rock, Jake Broder and Angela Teek|
I once heard Artistic Director Barbara Beckley discuss what she looks for in a play or musical for the Colony. “Tell me a story; make me care,” is what she said. Words By Ira Gershwin fulfills those prerequisites beautifully. For the music, for the stories, and most importantly, for the words, this is one musical event that you don’t want to miss.
|Elijah Rock and Jake Broder|
WORDS BY IRA GERSHWIN
April 15 - May 17, 2015
555 North Third Street (at Cypress)
Burbank, CA 91502
Tickets: (818) 558-7000 x 15 or www.ColonyTheatre.org.
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Labels: colony theatre
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