One enchanted evening with Brian Stokes Mitchell
Shame on all the young musical theater and singer wannabees who missed Saturday’s concert by the Tony- and heart-winning Brian Stokes Mitchell. The perfectly packaged and delivered 102-minute concert at Sanders Theatre was like a master class. Let’s start with the venue. Calling it one of his five favorite places to play in the United States, the baritone said, “when you sing a note [here], the hall takes it from you and puts an extra spin on it.’’ Next is the accompaniment provided by pianist Tedd Firth who took your breath away when the leading man wasn’t grabbing it.
A huge piece of the performing pie is talent, and Mitchell leaped out of the gate with “Some Enchanted Evening’’ from “South Pacific’’ and also earned points in the the-show-must-go-on department when the sound system added its noisy two cents for a few seconds. The singer cupped his ear, smiled, made a funny face, and never missed a beat: “I don’t know what that is, probably ghosts of the past saying ‘why do you use amplification?’ ’’ (which he later ditched for a romantically delicious rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine,’’ also from “South Pacific’’ — a lesson in projection).
A good program helps, and it doesn’t get much better than Rodgers & Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and other Broadway behemoths. Going back to his “theater roots’’ for most of Saturday’s gig, the leading man got a kick out of singing tunes from some of his favorite “bad boy’’ roles, including Petruchio’s humorous “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?’’ from “Kiss Me, Kate’’ which earned Mitchell his Tony. Every song in the program showed the performer’s versatility in vocal range, emotions, body language, and ability to make you imagine that every character he’s singing to or about is on the stage. “I’ve gotten to play all the roles I’ve wanted to play except this one’’ was his intro to the “Soliloquy’’ from “Carousel’’ which almost made you root for bad-boy Billy Bigelow.
The program ended with an a cappella version of “America the Beautiful’’ which transitioned to “Wheels of a Dream’’ from “Ragtime.’’ And after an encore of “Some Other Time’’ from “On the Town’’ and “The Impossible Dream’’ from “Man of La Mancha,’’ the master showman wished the ladies a happy Mother’s Day and delivered the most important show-biz lesson: Always leave ’em wanting more.
June Wulff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.