Juilliard Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts
Brian Zeger, Artistic Director
New York Festival of Song
Steven Blier, Artistic Director
Harry, Hoagy, and Harold
Steven Blier (Piano and Arrangements)
Mikaela Bennett, Christine Price, Sopranos
Amanda Lynn Bottoms, Kelsey Lauritano, Mezzo-Sopranos
Samuel Levine, Gerard Schneider, Tenors
Dmitri Katotakis, Baritone
Mary Birnbaum, Stage Director
Adam Cates, Choreographer
Chris Reynolds, Asst. Pianist
Mary Testa, Guest Coach
At the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Press: Gloria Gottschalk for Juilliard
Press: Aleba Gartner for NYFOS
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 13, 2016
Steven Blier, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of New York Festival of Song, once again presented a hugely entertaining and educational program, with his Juilliard vocal students, called “Harry, Hoagy, and Harold”, with rare and renowned vocal tunes by Harry Warren, Hoagy Carmichael, and Harold Arlen. Tonight’s spirited vocalists were sopranos, Mikaela Bennett and Christine Price, mezzo-sopranos, Amanda Lynn Bottoms and Kelsey Lauritano, tenors, Samuel Levine and Gerard Schneider, and baritone, Dimitri Katotakis. Occasionally joining Mr. Blier as assistant pianist was Chris Reynolds. Expanding the enchantment of this jazzy, joyful performance, Mr. Schneider also played his guitar and banjo, and the ensemble enhanced Warren’s “Jeepers Creepers” from “Going Places” with a pulsating tap dance. The audience as always was vocally enthused and consistently responsive. The two-act program of songs, drawn from shows and musical films from the 1930’s to 1950’s, included interludes with Mr. Blier’s informative and witty anecdotes about the original shows’ stars, like Arlen’s “A Sleepin’ Bee’ from “House of Flowers”, originally sung by Pearl Bailey. Each student vocalist exuded professional poise and presence, as well as ensemble rapport and unique personality.
The 22 songs began with an instrumental solo, with Mr. Schneider playing, on poignant guitar, Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz”. This was a stunning choice to put the audience in a mood for melody. Carmichael’s “The Old Music Master” from “True to Life” was sung with campy flair by Mr. Katotakis, Ms. Price, and Ms. Lauritano. Mikaela Bennett belted out “A Sleepin’ Bee”, lyrics by Truman Capote, before Mr. Schneider appeared with his banjo, accompanying Mr. Blier’s piano, while singing Carmichael’s “Old Buttermilk Sky” from “Canyon Passage”. Arlen’s “Last Night When We Were Young” brought out Mr. Levine in a melancholy mood, jacket over his shoulder, while two singers romantically danced. Ms. Bennett and Ms. Bottoms joined for another tune from Arlen/Capote’s “House of Flowers”, “Two Ladies in de Shade of de Banana Tree”, with Mr. Schneider on banjo in the finale. Arlen’s “It’s a New World” from “A Star Is Born” exuded strength and quietude with Ms. Price’s stunning interpretation.
Next, Warren’s “I’m Going Shopping With You” from “Dames” brought the house down, as the ensemble pretended to be salespeople, holding clothes on hangers as props, while a female vocalist shopped till she dropped, and Mr. Katotakis lamented in melodic song. Arlen’s “Dancing Partner”, also from “A Star Is Born”, had gorgeous trills of warbling mezzo range, gorgeously sung by Ms. Lauritano. This was an unpublished and unsung song at the time of the film’s premiere. “Old Man Harlem” by Carmichael and Rudy Vallee exuded attitude and sass, thanks to Ms. Bottoms, in green dress and sunglasses. The entire ensemble was on hand for the first act closer, Warren’s “Cheerful Little Earful” from “Sweet and Low”. The lyrics, by Ira Gershwin and Billy Rose, were enchanting. After intermission, Warren’s “Jeepers Creepers” included that bubbly, syncopated tap dance, mentioned above. Mr. Schneider added guitar harmonies, and, thanks to Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Blier, we heard some rambunctious, four-handed piano. Arlen’s “Evelina” from “Bloomer Girl” had the full ensemble in a comedic skit, with the title character, Ms. Price, fooling her suitor, Mr. Levine, into thinking she was the chambermaid.
Warren’s “Hard to Replace”, from “The Barkleys of Broadway”, was notably eloquent with stunning, intertwining tones, sung by Mr. Katotakis and Ms. Lauritano. Arlen’s “That Old Black Magic” from “Star Spangled Rhythm” was what we call a showstopper, dramatic and full of pizzazz, crooned by Ms. Bottoms with confidence and charm. This became the first of a string of solos, with each Juilliard vocalist showcasing his/her talent. Carmichael’s “Skylark”, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, brought out Mr. Kototakis’ solo. He held his own with poignancy and pathos. The ensemble remained onstage in the backdrop for support, during each of these solos. Mr. Levine’s solo was Arlen’s “Buds Won’t Bud” from “Cairo”, lyrics by Yip Harburg. This romantic and plaintive tune exuded theatricality. Two songs by Warren, “I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)” from “That Night in Rio” and “When I Love I Love” from “Weekend in Havana”, brought out Ms. Lauritano’s solos, joined by “the Boys”, barefoot and wild, jackets tossed. Ms. Lauritano wore a banana hat, shaking up a storm, and the vocal combo was a sure hit with the crowd. Mr. Schneider’s virtuosic solo, Warren’s “At Last” from “Orchestra Wives”, lyrics by Mack Gordon, included guitar passages and operatic vocal power.
Ms. Bennett, like her colleagues, an artist to watch, added drama to Arlen’s “Sleep Peaceful, Mr. Used-to-Be” from “St. Louis Woman”. She pretended to stand with her emptied pistol over the body of her deceased lover, as she showcased her lush lyrics, by Johnny Mercer. In the final solo, Ms. Price let it all out for Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You”. The final program tune, Carmichael’s “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom”, was performed by the full ensemble with youthful energy and impressive musicality. Mr. Blier added a couple of vibrant encores, before enjoying equally vibrant and heartfelt accolades, as the ensemble walked out with Mr. Blier soaking in the appreciation of his many fans. Kudos to Steven Bier and New York Festival of Song, and kudos to the multitalented, Juilliard vocal artists.
Vocalists from The Juilliard School
and Steven Blier on Piano
in "Harry, Hoagy, and Harold"
Courtesy of Michael DiVito