Tuesday, October 27, 2015

William Finn: Broadway Close Up

William Finn, lyricist-composer of Falsettos, Elegies, and Little Miss Sunshine, writes at the corner of idiosyncratic and heartfelt. His topics range far and wide: e.g., a baseball game, trying to recover from a stroke, and having sex with a Republican. And, yes, he also tackles the biggies, like family and romantic love. Sometimes Finn's music is cozily melodic; other times, not so much. Sometimes his lyrics are tight and perfect; other times, they feel jammed together with almost random rhymes that somehow work. His songs dazzle, entertain, reveal people's secrets, make you laugh, and break your heart.

William Finn
As seen in the Broadway Close Up evening of his songs, Finn is also a fabulous interviewee, gravel-voiced, dry, funny, and deeply grateful for what life has given him. (He can also truly sell a song, as when he did "Stupid Things," from The Royal Family of Broadway, somewhat in the style of Elaine Stritch, who originated the number.)

Finn clearly had a great time all evening, as did the audience. The highlights for me included Sally Wilfert's three numbers: "Anytime," from Elegies; "Something Better Better Happen," from Little Miss Sunshine; and "Raise Up Big Please This Umbrella," from What You Think When You Can't Sleep (music by Deborah Abramson). The songs required three distinct moods and styles, and she did each with subtlety and verve.

Betty Buckley was lovely on "Only One" and "14 Dwight Avenue, Natick, Massachusetts" (ably assisted by Finn's student Matthew Krob).

Alysha Umphress tackled "Change" from A New Brain and "Song of the Full Refrigerator" (music by Will Aronson) from Songs of Innocence and Experience; she could perhaps use a little more variety in her approach, but she is a heck of a singer.

And Norm Lewis closed the evening with "Infinite Joy," from Elegies, followed by the unplanned treat of "I'd Rather Be Sailing" from A New Brain. He just gets better and better (and sexier and sexier).

I'm sure some people in the audience had different highlights; it was an impressive evening. The other performers were Stephen DeRosa, Demond Green, Sara Kase, Matthew Krob, Emily Reeves, Ben Schrager, and Taylor Trensch.

This was a one-night event, but perhaps you can catch the rest of the Broadway Close Up season: 
  • I Could Go On Singing: The Songs of Harold Arlen (Mon, Dec 07, at 7:30 pm): featuring  Kate Baldwin, Marilyn Maye, Joshua Henry, Adam Jacobs, Liz Callaway, Matthew Scott, Allison Blackwell, Billy Stritch, KT Sullivan, Eric Comstock, and Barbara Fasano.  
The quality of the Broadway Close Up evenings can vary, and not every night hits a home run. But they are always worthwhile.

Wendy Caster
(first row; free ticket from a friend)

No comments: