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Nobody Does it Like Me -- The Songs of Dorothy Fields

by Les Spindle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 3, 2014
The cast at Kritzerland
The cast at Kritzerland  (Source:Courtesy of Michael Sterling)

June was busting out all over on the first of the month at the popular Sterling's Upstairs supper club at the Federal bar and restaurant in North Hollywood. In fact, the "busting out" included some earthquake tremors right in the middle the show, but the devoted performers carried on without a hitch.

Producer Bruce Kimmel, impresario for the longtime show-music recording company Kritzerland Records, along with his venerable associate Adryan Russ, offered "Nobody Does it Like Me-The Songs of Dorothy Fields," a glittering array of performers and show tunes saluting celebrated lyricist-librettist Fields (1905-1974).

She is best known for her lyrics for such vintage stage musicals as "Sweet Charity," "Seesaw," "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "Redhead." She also boasts significant credits as author or co-author of the books for musicals such as "Stars In Your Eyes," "Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," and three shows featuring Cole Porter scores: "Let's Face It!, "Something for the Boys" and "Mexican Hayride."

She wrote lyrics for legendary film musicals such as composer Jerome Kern's "Roberta" and his "Swing Time," which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Among the choice tidbits that the evening's host-with-the-most Kimmel offered in his between-songs patter was the mention that President Barack Obama recited some lyrics from the optimistic ditty "Pick Yourself Up" (from the 1936 film "Swing Time") during his January 2009 inauguration address. Kimmel then launched into a sprightly rendition of that classic Depression-era song.

Because some of the music in the Fields canon is less familiar than selections in many Kritzerland evenings, there was a nice sense of discovery to this offering, enhanced by Kimmel's always interesting chatter about the backgrounds of the songs and shows. One of his most surprising revelations was that beloved musical diva Gwen Verdon ("Chicago," "Damn Yankees"), Bob Fosse's wife, who died in 2000, sometimes insisted that a song or two was occasionally cut from some performances, due to the exhausting weekly schedule.

Kimmel dropped the bombshell that one of such songs was the climactic 11:00 ballad "Where Am I Going" from "Sweet Charity." Quipped Kimmel: "That's like doing 'Gypsy' and dropping 'Rose's Turn.'" No such omission was evident here, as another vivacious redhead, Kerry O'Malley, then launched into a bravura rendition of the heart-wrenching "Where Am I Going."
Another soaring love ballad from "Charity" was "Too Many Tomorrows" (not used in the film version), belted with panache and soulfulness by golden-voiced actor-singer Zachary Ford, who has excelled in such Southland musicals as "Camelot" and "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris."

Ford also scored with the sprightly "You Couldn't Be Cuter," as he made eye contact with a captivated young girl sitting near the front. He also did a delightful medley of the popular upbeat ditty "I Feel a Song Coming On" along with "On the Sunny Side of the Street" from the 1930 stage show "The International Revue." It was songs such as this that evoked memories of vintage Busby Berkley and "42nd Street," if not "Annie."

The evening’s other male crooner, Robert Yacko, performed a delightful love duet, "Thirty Weeks of Heaven" with the superb Cynthia Ferrer.

The evening's other male crooner, Robert Yacko, also an accomplished mainstay in musical theater productions such as "Company" and "Parade," performed a delightful love duet, "Thirty Weeks of Heaven" with the superb Cynthia Ferrer. He also offered a smoothly alluring Oscar winner "The Way You Look Tonight" as well as a crackerjack medley of "I Won't Dance" and "Never Gonna Dance."

Ferrer, another Southland musical theater veteran, excelled in the deliciously satiric "He Had Refinement." Toward the end of the evening, she offered a knockout combination of two songs from the 1973 Michael Bennett musical "Seesaw," (based on the Shirley MacLaine-Robert Mitchum film drama "Two for the Seesaw") -- the powerful "I'm Way Ahead" and the fine title song. Kimmel shared a fascinating historical recap of this Michelle Lee star vehicle, including its troubled germination under changing creative teams, and its triumphant eventual opening, followed by a very short run. He explained that the producers had used up all their money during its aborted earlier versions, and had little left to advertise the well received show.

The splendid Sami Staitman achieved a triumph with the riotous poor-me number. "Nobody Does It Like Me," also from "Seesaw." Her sister, talented Sarah Staitman, scored a hit with the funny "Exactly Like You."

Treasured L.A.-based performer Kim Huber, whose countless stellar credits include Belle in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway and on tour, initially crooned the perfectly matched medley: the vintage romantic classics "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." She returned for equally superb performances of "A Fine Romance" and "Make the Man Love Me."

Fast rising young performer, Jenna Lea Rosen, a mainstay in Kritzerland revues, knocked the showstopping "If They Could See Me Now" out of the park, in a dazzling song-and-dance rendition, including a killer tap break. This "Sweet Charity" number, strongly associated with Verdon on Broadway and Shirley MacLaine on film, glittered in Rosen's stellar interpretation. Tara Browne offered a lovely take on the poignant "Pink Taffeta Sample Size 10," a number that Kimmel informed us was written for "Sweet Charity" yet cut prior to opening.

The energetic encore number was a singalong version of the salty "Hey Big Spender" from "Charity," crooned here in a G-rated style by the enthusiastic crowd, along with the cast.

Lloyd Cooper offered boffo musical direction and piano accompaniment. Nostalgia and novelty were equally evident in Kritzerland's latest mix of top-notch talent and terrific vintage material.

"Nobody Does it Like Me -- The Songs of Dorothy Fields," was performed June 1 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. For information of future shows, call 919-754-8700 or visit http://www.msaprnet/Sterling-s-at-The-Federal.html.

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