Broadway newcomer Alysha Umphress wowed her audience on June 11, while the following Saturday, June 18, saw theatre and cabaret legend Jason Graae command the stage at Rrazz Room at the Raven in New Hope.
Alysha Umphress, who came directly from her triumph on Broadway in the new revival of On the Town, had her audience in the palm of her hand from her first “Hello.” Although a very young woman, she did have a number of stories to tell mixed in with her dynamic, nuanced readings of musical standards, jazzy ballads, and some offbeat material.
Citing Dinah Washington as one of her idols, she had the audience (many of whom appeared to be familiar fans) mesmerized. She spoke about the dress she wore that night and a funny story it involved, as well as celebrities met and not met, her recordings, the upcoming Tony Awards to be aired in New York the following day, her parents, boyfriends, and her music. Her songs included the offbeat: “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates … ,” a song written for the unrealized musical Betty Boop, and songs written especially with her talents in mind.
The following week, Jason Graae took the stage. An energetic live wire, Graae was a masterful storyteller who had as his theme the songs of Broadway legend Jerry Herman. Although bedeviled by wayward lighting cues that would have thrown many other performers, Graae took the technical difficulties in stride, turning them instead to comedic insights, which delighted his audience. He had appeared just the night before at the Rrazz Room in Philadelphia, and he was totally there and totally committed to giving his audience his all.
Naturally, many of Herman’s greatest hits were excellently portrayed, from “Don’t Let the Parade Pass Me By,” to songs from The Grand Tour and Mack and Mabel, to Hello Dolly. Graae had a poignant story of his coming out to his mother when he was in his 30s, seguing into a glorious rendition of La Cage aux Folles’ anthem, “I Am What I Am.” Graae was called back to the stage at the end of his concert by a thunderous standing ovation. His was a great performance by a great artist.
For more information about the Rrazz Room at the Prince Theatre or at the Raven, visit their website: http://www.therrazzroom.com/