by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
“Life is a Cabaret, old chum, Come to the Cabaret”, according to the words of the famous musical by the same name. Cabaret shows are popular and frequently performed in large cities like New York and San Francisco. Jacksonville has one occasionally and Dual Critics had the opportunity to enjoy one Saturday July 10th in the Rainbow Room at the Metro Entertainment Complex.
Veteran Jacksonville actor and director Bill Kroner and piano man Michael Murphy created a two- hour cabaret show entitled Broadway A – Z that played to a full house audience in the intimate Rainbow Room. We last saw Kroner perform on stage in a play several years ago in the leading role of Die Mommie Die performed at the Metro by First Coast Theatre Arts. This was the first time we had heard the talented piano stylings (and singing) of Michael Murphy in action.
The show featured 26 songs from Broadway shows covering 80 years from 1927 to 1977. That is a lot of years and a lot of songs to choose from, and this duo chose a wonderful selection of styles and tempos including songs that were sad and funny and songs with several interesting surprises as well.
The first half of the show was a true trip down memory lane with songs from such shows as Chicago, The King and I, Mame, My Fair Lady, and Zorba, just to name a few.
The first set closed with “I Can See It “from “The Fantasticks” and was sung as a duet by Mr. Kroner and Mr. Murphy. This was probably the best arrangement of this song we have ever heard, and we have seen Fantasticks many times.
The second half was delightful, and an opportunity to hear some songs we had long forgotten and some we had never heard.
The first number was “Nina “from Noel Coward’s 1945 musical revue Sigh No More. This truly hilarious song is about a South American beauty from Argentina who hates Latin American dance and falls in love with a sailor with a wooden leg!!! Ah, Coward’s wonderful wit at its finest.
Other interesting selections included “Thank God I’m Old” from the 1980 Barnum, “You Can Have the T.V” from the 1972 Notes, and “That Terrific Rainbow” from the 1951 Pal Joey.
The overwhelming crowd favorites for the second half were songs from the 1977 Young Frankenstein. Mr. Michaels, accompanying himself on the piano, sang “Transylvania Mania.” Kroner delighted the audience with the slightly naughty “He Vas My Boyfriend.”
As a closing number to finish up the evening, the entire audience did a sing-along of “Cabaret” with the words available on the program.
Bill Kroner has a captivating singing style with the ability to sing very soulfully as in “Bill” from the1927 Showboat or to really belt out a number like “I am Free” from the1968 Zorba. He is no stranger to musical theatre, and played the lead in his original musical Midnight at Johnny’s, featuring the music of Johnny Mercer, which was produced several years ago at First Coast Theatre Arts former location on King Street. It was obvious that Mr. Kroner and Mr. Murphy put a lot of time and effort into this excellent show that was fully appreciated by the audience. Thanks for the memories!
BROADWAY A – Z theatre review
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM