Photo Credit: Brooke Martino
An evening of songs about men, written to be sung by women, and performed by three hunky Baritones, promises to be, at the very least, an interesting evening filled with double entrendres, wink-wink navel gazing, and high camp fun.
BUT… as directed by Edward Miskie, one of the baritones of BariToned, and choreographed by Brooke Martino, there was no camp, there was no gender-switching of lyrics, the guys all played it “straight,” so to speak, and the result was a show so sublimely smart, so genuinely entertaining, and so perfectly attuned to the succinctly different voices of the three men (and their 4 guest stars, also all baritones), that one soon forgot about gender and/or camp factor, and was able to just enjoy the energy and vocal pyrotechnics which poured off the stage and over the audience in wave after wave of infectious high spirits.
Joe Hagar, Kyle Hines, and the aforementioned Miskie all possess gorgeous, beautifully produced baritones of various weights and colors, which were seamlessly interwoven in a series of medleys designed to show off each of their voices in solos, duets, and trios. (The brilliant arrangements were by Dan Pardo, and the brilliant band consisted of David John Madore on piano, Will Hack on bass, and Curt Garey on drums.)
They scored on song after song after song, and to mention them all would turn this into a laundry list of the best of Broadway from the ’20s through today. But a few highlights: the opening, when all three strode onto the stage and commenced singing “I Hate Men” (Cole Porter, Kiss Me Kate, 1948) with ballsy charm; Miskie’s strongly emotional “50 Percent” (Billy Goldenberg, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Ballroom, 1978); Hagar’s hilariously testosterone-fueled “Gorgeous” (Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, The Apple Tree, 1966); and Hine’s wistfully touching “A Trip To The Library” (Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Me, 1963); and when, late in the show, all three joined forces on “One Night Only,” (Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls, 1981), they blew the roof off the joint.
Acting as genial host, Miskie’s patter was minimal, serving to give the audience guideposts as to what was coming next, and to introduce each of the guest artists who took over the middle section of the show: Peter Saide, giving a raucous rendition of “Lost & Found” (Cy Coleman and David Zippel, City Of Angels, 1989); Michael Hunsaker, singing a definitive “Meadowlark” (Stephen Schwartz, The Baker’s Wife, 1976); Alan H. Green singing a passionate “Too Beautiful For Words” (Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, The Color Purple, 2005); and Aaron Ramey delivering a simply beautiful “A New Life” (Frank Wildhorn, Jekyll & Hyde, 1997.)
If there were any carps to be made about the evening, it would be that there might have been too many medleys, and not enough chances for each of the singers to display their individual voices in complete solos. And, as wonderful as their guest artists were, the baritones of BariToned themselves were missed whenever they were not front and center. It’s their show, through and through, and one wanted every opportunity to be entertained, energized, and exhilarated by their voices, their charm, their sex appeal, their humor, and their obvious enjoyment of every moment they were on stage. But such reservations are nitpicking, for the evening as a whole was a little more than an hour of pure musical joy.
Rumor has it BariToned will be back at Birdland Theater in March; watch for an announcement, and then book your seats as fast as possible. To quote a song they did not sing but probably will at some point: “You’ll have a real good time, yes sir.”