In the mood for a little supper club and music, circa 1935? Then put on your fur and pearls, and have the chauffeur drive you to The Source, where The In Series is currently performing its Gershwin concert, By George, By Ira, By Gershwin.
It’s a good venue for the show, with atmospherics that start the moment you walk in. Set designer Greg Stevens has done up a budget-friendly silver and black homage to high Art Deco, with cute little cafe tables awash in musical note tablecloths, a New York City backdrop (well, of course) and exceedingly clever Art Deco palm trees which began life as cardboard carpet rolls and tinfoil.
The design aesthetic continues with costumes by Donna Breslin, in elegant shades of silver, black and descending scales of purple.
It’s a spare show, with six people on stage and just two in the band, but the music sounds lush enough for the small space that is the Source, and the performers are nothing if not energetic.
The singers are all clearly having a good time – how could you not, with Gershwin as a base?- but I did find myself wishing for more belt voices and less high-in-the-clouds head voices by the end of the evening. The Gershwins, in their heyday, wrote for quintessential American voices, from modern opera to early swing, and much of the evening’s music tended to take a more operatic approach. That’s not necessarily bad, but in the case of such lighthearted tunes as “They All Laughed”, as sung by Laura Werhmeyer Fuentes, singing lyrics to pretty notes rather than comic asides deflates the wit of the words.
That being said, there was still a good deal of humor in the segues, which match the music of Ira Gershwin’s lyrics well; and movement and choreography by Angelisa Gillyard was smooth and varied.
Many of the performers have a strong opera background, which was put to good use in the Porgy and Bess segment, easily the strongest part of the show. Highlights included Jase Parker’s performances of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “There’s A Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York”.
This is a good show for folks who know the Gershwin canon well; but lest you think it’s all going to be standards, some of their lesser-known pieces are also included: “Blah Blah Blah” is a jolly little comic piece, whose very lyrics skewer the words of every love song you ever heard. Pretty brazen, really, for the gentlemen who wrote about love so very well.
BY GEORGE, BY IRA, BY GERSHWIN . Music and Lyrics: George & Ira Gershwin, Dubose Hayward . Director: Abel Lopez . Music Director: Reenie Codelka . Featuring Detra Battle, Kenneth Derby, Laura Wehrmeyer Fuentes, Brian Jackson, Jase Parker, Pam Ward . Originally Created by Fredric Lee . Choreography: Angelisa Gillyard . Costumes: Donna Breslin . Scenic Design: Greg Stevens . Lighting Design: Stefan Johnson . Pianists: Reenie Codelka; (Frank Conlan 12/4, 12/5) . Upright Bass: Ephriam Wolfolk . Stage Manager: Katie Bucher . Produced by: The In Series . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.