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To begin the new month on February 1, the Skylight Opera changes its name to the Skylight Music Theatre ithat will redefine the company’s mission. American music definitely defined that mission last weekend when the Skylight reprised an enhanced production of the revue from December 2010, Gershwin and Friends.

The performance begins in the home of George Gershwin when he’s celebrating his birthday with a grand party off stage. Cynthia (Cynthia Cobb) and Parrish (Parrish Collier) work as caterers in a back bar where they sing and dance while Paul (Paul Helm) plays the musician who always finds himself the second fiddle to the real Gershwin at the ivories on the piano. 

Helm beautifully accompanies Cobb and Collier through a first act comprised completely of Gershwin melodies. Most of them encourage spooning and wooing: “Embraceable You, Someone to Watch Over Me” and a classical suite of songs taken from the show Porgy and Bess. Several evocative duets from Gershwin’s opera will culminate in an upbeat number used in the Gene Kelly showpiece, An American in Paris, the popular "Our Love is Here to Stay.” 

Cobb radiates in these stage performances while Collier provides the cool machismo. Especially when the second act opens by moving the musical action to a Harlem nightclub that introduces tunes by Gershwin’s friends...Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, which adds the expert Tom McGirr on Bass and Michael Lorenz on Drums and Vibes. 

Cobb’s rendition of “Hit Me With a Hot Note And Watch Me Bounce” sizzles along with McGirr's bass solo. When she croons “Ain’t Misbehavin'” written by Waller, Cobb suanters into the theater aisles to flirt. One certainly wishes that Cobb would have magnified that voice and soloed on Arlen’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a song that brings memorable longing to the soul. Lorenz embellished this melody by playing his haunting marimba, very good vibes.   

The entertaining evening ends with a sing a long to showcase all four fabulous composers who helped define the Great American Song Book, those less familiar tunes along with old favorites: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” (Ellington), “Sin to Tell a Lie” (Waller), “It’s only a Paper Moon” (Arlen) and “They All Laughed” (Gershwin). 

After the audience finished the evening with this rousing chorus, applause greeted the trio, with Cobb leading the way to this pleasurable two hours. Her hot notes accompanied by Collier and Helm will heat up a night to woo that special someone before Valentine’s Day. 

Or extend the romance after the performance by taking in the “Hot Jazz on a Cold Winter Night” in the Skylight Bar and Bistro, which features Jamie Johns (great piano) Michael Lorenz, (amazing percussion) and Olusegun Sijuwade (smooth saxophone) to Shari Williams Pannell’s sultry vocals. Enjoy a cocktail with a dessert provided by Indulge, who also offer their frosted cupcakes and chocolate truffles during the evening performance's intermission. 

The Skylight Music Theatre presents Gershwin and Friends in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center through February 12, with special promotions for Valentine’s Day. For more information, call 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left.   by Peggy Sue Dunigan   


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Reader Comments (1)

What an exilarating evening! The Gershwin show was absolutely top-notch (Parrish Collier, I love you). Then to hear Shari William Pannell in the Skylight Bar . . . . . . a treat beyond words. Thank you, Skylight.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Kasper

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