Photo Credit: Betsyann Faiella
Raissa Katona Bennett “Can’t Help Singing The Music of Jerome Kern,” and we are all better off for it! This aptly titled show is, by her own report, is 10 years in the making, and well worth the wait.
Stylishly dressed in a sassy black sequined jacket, Katona Bennett took The Green Room 42 by storm with I’ll Be Hard To Handle (B. Dougall, 1932), and immediately followed that with a story-filled Smoke gets in Your Eyes (O. Harbach, 1933). It was her third song choice, however, I’m Old Fashioned (J. Mercer, 1942), where voice and actress coellessed into something more than the sum of it’s parts. And, with a naturally easy, clear and beautiful tone, Katona Bennett showed that while she may have decided to leave Broadway (for a time), Broadway never left her.
This is a smart show, that shows off all the best qualities of the performer, without overtly calling attention to any single one of them. Katona Bennett resisted the “soprano trap” of singing everything in her head voice, and only used that gem for the most elusive of effects. Words come first with this performer, and that’s how it should be.
That is not to say that her soprano did not shine through. At the appropriate times she lofted into a sound reminiscent of Julie Andrews, with just the right amount of an easy speech-like quality at the top of the staff. And, once or twice, gave us full-on legit Soprano, as in her medley from Showboat.
Excellent Music Director Jon Webber also took a turn at the mic, in a duet of Pick Yourself Up (D. Fields, 1940), and dazzled throughout the evening with stellar arrangements and stunning collaborative accompaniment.
Of particular note was a jazzy arrangement of Let’s Begin (O. Harbach, 1933), that suited Katona Bennett’s smooth vocals like a glove. And, a fantastic pairing of All The Things You Are (Hammerstein, 1939) and They Didn’t Believe Me (H. Reynolds, 1914) proved to be another highlight of the evening.
You can still catch Raissa Katona Bennett, as she reprises Can’t Help Singing The Music of Jerome Kern at The Green Room 42, this Thanksgiving week, November 27.
You’ll be very Thankful you did.