Peggy Sue Dunigan
Sunset Playhouse

Gershwin on the Musical Mainstage

By - Mar 23rd, 2011 10:16 am
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George Gershwin, 1937 photo by Carl Van Vechten, public domain via Wikipedia Commons.

This season, the Sunset Playhouse has lit up usually dark Monday and Tuesday nights with Musical Mainstage shows that revive songs and genres from past decades. This week, the company presented Let’s Call the Whole Thing Gershwin, a 90-minute revue, in Furlan Auditorium.

Musical Mainstage hosts Susan Dwyer Loveridge and Scott Kopischke shared anecdotes and information on the Gershwin theme. They told the story of immigrant brothers George and Ira Gershwin, who rose to success in the 1920’s and ‘30’s as they helped write an American songbook that continues to inspire. Gershwin has been a household name in American music ever since, even though George died unexpectedly from a brain tumor in the late 30’s, leaving Ira bereft. After a three-year hiatus from writing, lyricist Ira he collaborated with other composers and lyricists and further added to the songbook.

Milwaukee favorite Leslie Fitzwater, Swing Nouveau vocalist Tommy Lueck, the delightful Becky Spice and debut Sunset singer Matt McNabb surveyed the Gershwin legacy solo and in harmony. Music director Paula Folley Tillen, composer in residence of the Milwaukee Choral Artists, accompanied.

Embraceable You, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,  ‘S Wonderful, I’ve Got Rhythm and struck chords in the heart. McNabb shone in his own arrangement of I’ve Got a Crush on You. One never tires of listening to this music, which marries the heartbreaking and hopeful and reflects both the flamboyant 1920’s and disillusioning 1930’s. Sunset “Rising Star” Emily Pogorelc, a high school freshman, showed talent and stage presence in Someone to Watch Over Me and Little Jazz Bird.

Perhaps the best moments arrived at the end, with a medley from the Gershwins’ and DuBose Heyward’s Porgy and Bess. Spice opened with Summertime, McNabb followed with I’ve Got Plenty of Nothing. Lueck poured his heart out in Ain’t Necessarily So, and Fitzwater and McNabb found the tenderness in Bess, You is My Woman Now. Each song sounded fresh and resonant at age 76. The lyrics raise poignant memories.

The Musical Mainstage provides evenings with professional entertainment from Milwaukee’s talent pool and works best when the performers merely sing, reminding the audiences of their American musical heritage. The four professionals alone could carry the night to create continual momentum and could have integrated any introductions, as they did in the finale. The next Musical Mainstage happens on June 13 and 14, with the theme Young at Heart. The Sunset’s Sidenotes Cabaret will present Fountain of Uke, featuring Lil’ Rev, on May 19-21 and May 26-18.

For information and tickets for these musical events and on the Sunset’s main stage season, visit the Sunset website or call 262 782-4430.

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