By Bob Evans
Always expect great shows, fantastic musical talent, and signature background information about the music when attending a show at downtown’s Quality Hill Playhouse, currently offering “Sinatra’s Songwriter,” a musical history lesson on Sammy Cahn, who wrote 87 songs recorded by The Chairman of the Board.
Frank Sinatra’s history with Cahn began in the last 1930s and continues throughout Frank’s career. As noted by J. Kent Barnhart, executive director of Quality Hill Playhouse, Cahn won four Academy Awards of 31 nominations. And, Sinatra recorded all of those Award-winning songs. More than likely, Sinatra recorded many of the 31 during his career.
Cahn’s collaboration with Frank began toward the early part of Frank’s career, and continued through his Las Vegas years, where Sammy Cahn worked as Sinatra’s songwriter. “Sinatra’s Songwriter” traces the years of their collaboration through the Bobby-socks screamers through Frank’s days as leader of the Rat Pack and beyond.
For this production, Barnhart selected the precise talent he needed for this song-fest and voices that could match the music. Vocalists, Lauren Bradshaw, Lauren Braton, and Joseph Carr delivered the goods. Braton leads the group as she is an oft included songstress at QHP while Bradshaw and Carr make their second appearance, with more to come, hopefully.
Depend on Braton to give flawless interpretations of the American standards Barnhart selects. He knows her voice and knows she can interpret any style he needs for the show. Braton, possesses a beautiful soprano voice with a clear high register and is equally adept when using her sultry low register as well. For “Sinatra’s Songwriter” she sang a song, “I’ll Walk Alone,” generally thought of as a Dinah Shore classic but also recorded by Frank. In Act II, she soloed on “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Mostly, in this show she sang with the others in duets, trios and quartets.
As for Bradshaw, “All My Tomorrows” was her best solo of the first act, and “Call Me Irresponsible” was one of the gems of Act II. Her duets and trio numbers allowed her to show her personality and diversity. Bradshaw possesses a very tender, sweet soprano voice and when she needs to in crease the volume, she can, indeed. She is comfortable in the cabaret style show and will probably return soon to subsequent shows at QHP.
The Sinatra sound fits nicely into Joseph Carr’s wheel house. He has the perfect tonality to deliver a Frank Sinatra-like piece. In Act I, Carr sang “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” and “Time after Time.” Both were reminiscent of Sinatra’s style and sound. In Act II, his solos, equally Sinatra-ish were “Day by Day,” “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week,” and “All the Way.” Carr’s velvet vocals made each of his solos stand out.
Kent Barnhart devoted most of his time to beautiful piano work and singing in the group numbers. His historic and comedic commentary always give so much insight into the show’s theme that audiences always exit with newfound insight into the shows theme or the music contained withing. An evening at QHP would not be complete without Barnhart’s hosting and talking banter.
Another aspect of the QHP shows is the consistent percussion accompaniment of Ken Remmert on drums. Remmert can elevate any song with his rhythmic skins. Watching him as he beats the drums is fun in itself. Remmert always adds that extra special element to the music. And, the good news is–he’s a QHP staple.
For “Sinatra’s Songwriter” a new addition for this show, Ben Turvort manned the bass. Turvort, a youngster, (probably born after Sinatra’s last recording session) provided the deep bass sounds to back up Barnhart’s piano. Both the bow and fingers got a workout in this show as dictated by the arraignment Barnhart assigned to each classic tune. “Sinatra’s Songwriter” allowed Turvort to
make his QHP debut.
“Sinatra’s Songwriter” continues through July 8 at Quality Hill Playhouse. Pre and post desserts are available in the newly added bar and reception area. Tickets and more information can be found on the Quality Hill Playhouse website.
Tags: “Sinatra’s Songwriter”, Quality Hill Playhouse, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Music