‘Crooners’ at Chestnut deliver musical gems from bygone era

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By Bob Evans

One thing Chestnut audiences can expect is that Brad Zimmerman always presents a family- friendly, fun evening of entertainment, whether it’s a cabaret show or a light comedy, and “Classic Crooners” definitely captures the musical memories of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, and Dean Martin.

A vocal ensemble of T. Eric Morris, Ashley Pankow, and James Wright deliver the upbeat songs of the famous singers whose hits spanned the 1940s, ‘50s, and crept into the ‘60s in some cases. Bing Crosby recorded some of the earliest of hits and Tony Bennett probably had the latest of mega hits with his version on “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Along with the vocal stylists, Zimmerman took a break from piano from this show and sat Lenora Remmert at the 88s. Along with her, Ken Remmert played percussion; Brian Padavic maned the bass; and Harold Steinhardt tore up the reeds. Steinhardt’s multi-musical mastery on flute, clarinet and alto saxophone added depth and excitement to many of the songs. His breakout solos caused the audience to break into applause after several of his interludes. WOW!

Some shows spell huge success from the opening through the closing. “Classic Crooners” contains all the dynamics for that. Music from four top male vocalists, some humor thrown in, stories about each singer’s history, fabulous orchestration for each number, and the fun that just explodes off the stage as the show opens. You can’t go wrong with this show. Word of mouth will spread and shows will sell out.

Who could forget Bing Crosby and the songbook of hits he left behind? His featured hits include” “Lazy Bones,” “In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening,” “Gone Fishin’,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “Count Your Blessings,” ‘Too-ra-Loo-ra,” and, of course, “White Christmas.”

“Everybody Loves Somebody” became Dean Martin’s signature song, but did not catapult him to stardom as a singer until the 1960s, long after his successful run as Jerry Lewis’ straight man in the 1950s comedy duo, Martin and Lewis. Jerry Martin continued as a successful comic and movie star, but Martin did not fare so well until he joined the Rat Pack and created his Vegas show. The Dean Martin portion of the Chestnut show included “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me,” “ Everybody Loves Somebody,” “That’s Amore.”

For the casual Mr. C, Perry Como, the suave, TV host’s songs included: “Magic Moments,” “Catch a Falling Star,” “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” “Hot Diggity,” “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” “Round and Round,” “Mambo Italiano.”

And for the timeless Tony Bennett, his medley of music included: “I Wanna Be Around,” “Rags to Riches,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Who Can I Turn To?,” “Fly e to the Moor,” “Goodie Goodie,” and, his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

As one can see, the music selections are phenomenal, and with such anticipation of the music, strong vocalists are needed to sing those signature songs. And, the cast selected by Zimmerman can sing with the best of them. Pankow makes her Chestnut debut with this show and looks comfortable and composed with this cabaret style. She has done this type of show at other KC venues several time. Eric Morris and James Wright both graced the Chestnut stage for shows in the recent past. Both men possess outstanding voices and fit well into the crooner genre.

Probably the biggest surprise is the reed playing of Harold Steinhardt. His addition to so many songs pushed them over the top. Brian Padavic on bass just added a depth to the music and gave it a fuller, jazz sound. The Remmerts on piano and percussion always add flair to any Chestnut production. Just watching Lenora on piano and Ken on drums is a show in itself. When they play, you can feel their enjoyment throughout the auditorium.

“Classic Crooners” is a show that could sell out many performances. Call early to secure your reservations. “Classic Crooners” plays at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center, in Olathe, Kansas through Dec. 17. Tickets can be purchases by telephone to 913.764.2121 or via the Chestnut website.

Tags: Chestnut Fine Arts, Olathe, “Classic Crooners”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of Chestnut Fine Arts and Bob Evans | KC Applauds

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