AN EU DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
Downtown Jacksonville was alive with music and song on Saturday, February 27th, 2016, as a capacity evening audience packed WJCT‘s Studios to enjoy the cabaret show of Jacksonville’s Sarah Boone entitled, “The Double Threats: A Celebration of Composers/Lyricists.” In cabaret style, the sold-out crowd enjoyed pre-show adult beverages and delicious food from Anthony’s Gourmet Catering, while seated at tables in anticipation of Ms. Boone’s performance.
Sarah Boone is the Executive Director of Theatre Jacksonville, one of the oldest continuously performing community theatres in America, a challenging position which she accepted sixteen years ago. Previously, she worked as a performer in New York, and then moved to Washington, D.C. to study at American University, where she obtained a master’s degree in arts management. After management positions in Los Angeles and New York, she returned to her native Jacksonville and her family.
Ms. Boone’s management abilities are many but could be summed up in one sentence: Theatre Jacksonville is in the black, is growing, and is acclaimed for its educational and artistic programs.
The purpose of Ms. Boone’s cabaret was to raise money for Theatre Jacksonville, so necessary these days when government and corporate grants to non-profits are getting smaller, with some disappearing altogether. Sarah, who loves to perform, has appeared at Theatre Jax in the past in a series of “Happily Red” concerts, which were produced as fund-raisers.
The performance by Ms. Boone was indeed a treat and a show that provided both entertainment and education. The program included fifteen songs, all expertly sung, each with both composition and lyrics by the same artist. If you missed seeing this performance of “Double Threats,” you can see it on March 24th, in New York City at The Metropolitan Room.
Before most of the songs, Ms Boone, dressed in a glittering sequined gown, dished out amusing facts about the number. For example “Call Me” was once used by Bell Telephone in its advertising. It was written by Tony Hatch, who also composed “Downtown,” which became a big hit for pop singer Petula Clark.
Have you ever heard of the song “Hamlet?” We hadn’t either, but learned it was written by Frank Loesser of “How to Succeed in Business” fame. The song was a comic gem as sung by Sarah, and a lot funnier than the original play. Remember “The Rose” made famous by Beth Midler? It was written by Amanda McBroom, (whom Sarah knows personally). She also wrote “No Fear,” a powerful song whose lyrics Ms. Boone took to their expressive limits.
One number that everyone in the audience knew was Irving Berlin’s “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning.” Of course, Berlin also gave us what is perhaps the number one most popular song of all time with “White Christmas.” And did you know that he lived to be 101 years old?
One of the characteristics of cabaret is intimacy, and Sarah broke the fourth wall from the beginning with her personal grace and fabulous musicianship. She really connected with us when we were asked to sing along with a few lines from “Yakko’s Universe,” a novelty number by Randy Rogel. We were provided with printed cards with the words that began “It’s a great big universe, And we’re all really puny, We’re just tiny little specks, About the size of Mickey Rooney…” As an audience, we sang pretty well on the third try. Why isn’t this song everyone’s favorite choice for singing while showering?
We guess you get the idea that the evening was unique, and regardless of the song Ms. Boone was singing, she obviously can belt them out and deliver each one as though written exclusively for her. Indeed, she dazzled us with her interpretive depth and ability to give voice to the emotions portrayed by the lyrics.
“The Double Threats” was very professionally produced. Ms. Boone and Director Jean Tait spent several months carefully selecting the various songs. Ms. Tait, who is based in New York, has directed a number of shows at Theatre Jacksonville over the years. Eugene Gwozdz was the pianist as well as the musical director, arranger, and orchestrator, and has an impressive resume. Rounding out the band was Darren Ronan on percussion and Lloyd Hoppe on bass. The stage and sound design were by
AVL Productions, the lighting design by Daniel Owen Dungan.
Thank you Sarah Boone, it was interesting journey into American song during an evening filled with magic.