Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep -“Boy Loves Boy!”; Klea Blackhurst’s Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman; Freda Payne – “Band of Gold Star”

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on April 23, 2010

I’M IN LOVE, I’M IN LOVE, I’M IN LOVE WITH A DAZZLING ‘GIRLFRIEND’

This is a sharp-edged musical that is sly and rascally played by two outstanding actors – Ryder Bach (Will) and Jason Hite (Mike). When it’s all over, you’ll want to stand up and cheer. Not only are the leads terrific actors – they blaze through eleven entertaining songs about love, yearning for love, breaking up and getting back together.

The songs carry the story. For instance, there is the achingly beautiful “You Don’t Love Me” (Lyric: “You can’t see how I matter in this world”) – backed with plaintive guitar sounds. The boys sing out their love for each other with heart on the sleeve emotions. They are so touching and so real. You’re not watching just a musical. No, you are watching young love as they give us lyrics that deal with betrayal, anger and of course love.

If this musical doesn’t grab you by the balls and twist you around, then you must be soulless. The music by Matthew Sweet — smoothly segues from astounding musical riffing – and acoustic genius, plus tear jerking moments. Ah, but wait – there is happiness and joy along the way.

At the beginning, the music kinda startles you. But it mellows out with melodic rock that will actually have you singing it during intermission in the bathroom. The guitar music is not too excess, and the words are perfectly clear. You won’t miss a thing.

“Girfriend” is a perfectly crafted musical. It’s the one. The one that you will want to tell your friends about. It’s real, it’s you – and Gay or straight, you will find things that bring memories back to you from your high school years. That you can bet on!

MEET THE FANTASTIC BAND: Julie Wolf – Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards and backing vocals. Shelley Doty – Lead guitar, backing vocals. Jean DuSablon – Bass. And on Drums ieela Grant.

With great flair – The book by Todd Almond strikes Gold. Fun, Fluid Choreography by famed Joe Goode and striking Direction by Les Waters.

AT THE BERKELEY REP THEATRE

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook Section and Produced – Hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))


Klea Blackhurst’s – everything the traffic will allow. 42ndstmoon Courtesy Photo.

KLEA BLACKHURST’S — Everything the Traffic Will Allow

WOW! WOW! AND WOW! — That’s what I think about Klea Blackhurst’s sassy take on Ethel Merman. Blackhurst’s storytelling gifts have the richness and humor of a seasoned master. She enchants the audience with her rollicking tales about the adventures of the bawdy Merman.

This show never slows down. It accelerates with clever surprises and twists – making this one of the best Theatre experiences of the year.

Klea Blackhurst is one of those actor/singers/performers who doesn’t need unnecessary distractions as she channels Merman’s quirks. Everything is note perfect. Blackhurst has a voice that soars with inspiration. You could say — “Everything is coming up Roses.”

This incredible performer (Blackhurst) gives us a mix of musicianship (she even plays the Uke – or, as she calls it, “The I Pod of the 20’s”). Her joy and sophistication cleverly mines deep inside the emotions of Merman. It’s hypnotic. There is magic in that pristine voice. Blackhurst is backed up with the fantastic Pocket Change trio (Bruce Barnes-Piano, Daniel Fabricant – Bass, and Randy Odell – Drums.)

There are many wonderful songs in the show. Here are a few that kept the audience in rapture: With permission from The Rodgers and Hart Organization Klea Blackhurst wrote lyrics to “Ethel One Note” – and they sure are funny. With that start – she moves on like she’s on a high speed escalator with “I Got Rhythm”, “Johnny One Note”, “You’re the Tops”, Blow ˝Gabriel”, “Riding High”, the marvelous “I Got Lost in His Arms”, “Hostess with the Mostest” “Something for The Boys” and “Leader of a “Big time Band.”

And that’s just for starters. There are many, many more songs interspersed with Blackhurst’s wickedly funny comedy.

This show is simply brilliant. It will only run until April 25 – so I strongly advise to get tix now – This IS the next BEST THING you have been waiting for!

42nd Street Moon presents the Klea Blackhurst show at The Eureka Theatre. Visit Klea’s website at http://www.kleablackhurst.com/

NEXT! AT 42nd Street Moon – (Eureka Theatre) starting on May 5 — will be “Very Warm for May”. The Kern and Hammerstein’s score has these great songs: “All the Things You Are”, “All in Fun,” “In the Heart of the Dark,” “Heaven in My Arms,” and “That Lucky Fellow.” Visit – http://www.42ndstmoon.org/


Live shot of Freda Payne at the Rrazz Room. Courtesy photo: Pat Johnson.

FREDA PAYNE – AN EVENING OF ELLA FITZGERALD

Freda Payne is pure joy. I was amazed at how she never seems to strain or manipulate her vocal chords. Those gorgeous sounds just come right out — and melts the metal in the chairs.

Payne puts out a remarkable evening of Ella Fitzgerald music. Take ‘Mack The Knife” The energy can’t get any higher than this version. The audience (including me) swooned at “Someone to Watch Over Me” — and they jumped for joy at “Lady is a Tramp”. Ella would have loved to hear this musical treat.

“Too Darn hot” – is really what it means. This is not just a hot number – it’s burning holes in the stage. Payne’s lyricism, intonations, and diction are impeccable. Another great song from the Ella songbook is “How High the Moon.” Well, let me tell you it’s pretty high – at least it is on the RrazzRoom Stage. Payne takes it to new levels with melody mixed with scat. Yes, Ella did this too – but Payne has given it a new cover by bringing it up to date.

When Payne sings a ballad – she astonishes with her rich and sultry interpretations of these great songs. Ella’s songs and style never go out of business. And I have not heard anyone who sings ‘Ella’ like this. No danger of Payne going out of business anytime soon.

I really, really liked “Miss Otis Regrets” – (Cole Porter). The words are a kick-in-the-ass. Here’s one lyric: “From under her velvet Gown. She Drew Her Gun and Shot him down.” Yes indeed – Miss Otis was a mean minded person.

Along the way – Payne did a little imitation of Earth Kitt on one song – and said, “I like her too.” There were many fun moments in the show, as Payne intertwined some patter with her glorious and inventive song melodies.

Freda Payne is starring at the rrazz room. Don’t wonder “How High is the Moon?” – Freda Payne will sing it for. It’s pretty high – but you’ll want to reach out and touch it.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! – (highest rating) – trademarked-

Check out other venues at http://www.therazzroom.com/

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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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