Wednesday, March 25, 2015

review - BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts


"Tony winning actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell is the quintessential entertainer. He commands the stage, has a voice that soars to the rafters and, with funny, personal stories connecting the songs, he exudes an infinite amount of charm that creates a strong connection with the audience. His recent concert at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts proved once again that he is at the top of his profession and that the acoustics of the SCPA are simply superb.    The evening, entitled Simply Broadway, featured many songs from his album of the same name. With accomplished musical director Tedd Firth on piano, the evening was a stellar achievement.   Stokes' rich tenor has perfect tone and clarity, and his diction in the delivery of the lyrics is superb. His concert performances are much more than just a singer singing a song, as he embodies the famous male characters from a series of classic musicals who sing these songs, transforming himself from character to character. With each new persona he changes his voice, his accent, and his delivery to portray completely different people. In doing so, the concert isn't just a live version of his CD, but a more rich and theatrical experience with the songs vibrantly coming to life.   Stokes mentioned that the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans jazz albums were an inspiration for his Simply Broadway recording. He loved the sense of play on the those albums and wanted to find the joy in these well-known Broadway songs. "I, Don Quixote" was a perfect song to display that, with Stokes commanding the stage in his delivery of the song, even singing some of the verses in Spanish. It received a rousing delivery.    He spoke about how much he didn't originally really like the musical Les Misérables, but when he got the chance to play Javert in a concert version at the Hollywood Bowl, he said he finally "got" the show and how it celebrates the sadness and the joy of the world. His commanding performance of Javert's "Stars" brought the house down.   The back to back delivery of Sondheim's "Sorry-Grateful" from Company and "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific formed a stunning duo of songs about relationships. He ended the concert with "The Impossible Dream," from Man of La Mancha, which has become somewhat of a signature song for Stokes—I think I've heard him perform it at every concert of his I've seen over the past ten years. His performance of the song at SCPA showed one again that the notes he achieves and holds in his performance of this song are breathtaking, and also how the acoustics in the Virginia Piper Auditorium are crystal clear.   With humorous stories and superb delivery of the material, Brian Stokes Mitchell's Simply Broadway was an exceptional evening of story and song." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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