If American Classics’ “ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND” AT ONE HUNDRED hadn’t been such a delightful birthday party, you might have considered the Irving Berlin celebration a master class on how to deliver a song. There are so many ways: You can deliver it “straight,” you can act out the song, you can turn it into comic gold, you can turn it inside out…The possibilities are endless.
American Classics joined forces with some of the best musical theater stars in Boston for a joyous evening overflowing with laughter and song this past weekend. The concert hall at Longy was packed to the rafters with celebrants, including Berlin’s daughter and granddaughter and the bigwigs from the Rogers & Hammerstein Organization.
Leigh Barrett and Peter Foxon Miller invented a delicious comic scene while they sang Snookey Ookums, Berlin’s tongue in cheek send up of gooey love songs. Valerie Anastasio’s hilarious Mysterious Rag imitated art as her legs took on a syncopated life of their own. Edward M. Barker made Everybody’s Doing It Now imperative and Kerry A. Dowling brought Scottish charm to the Bagpipe version of Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
Eric R. Bronner captured that vintage Follies flavor with his gorgeous, straightforward delivery of The Girl on the Magazine (Cover). You could easily imagine him serenading a bevy of beauties as they descended the stairs behind him. Mary Ann Lanier, Heather Peterson and Anastasio provided fancy harmonies for Everybody Step and indeed, everyone was stepping out the rhythm and tapping up a storm in their seats. The lyric, “written for your feet” is exactly what Berlin accomplished: Not a still shoe in the house!
American Classics splurged on musicians, as well, with Tim Harbold joining the fabulous Margaret Ulmer on piano and Jim Dalton (banjo), Eli Newburger (tuba) and Dean Groves (percussion) adding pizzazz (and the odd train whistle) to the musical accompaniment. The embarrassment of riches included Brian De Lorenzo’s amusing Ragtime Violin and Joei Marshall Perry’s mock operatic Mesmerizing Mendelssohn Tune. Ben Sears pleased the crowd with the Yiddische Izzie Get Busy and Brad Conner set the pace with I’d Rather Lead a Band. Of course we all got into the act, along with the ensemble, for a rousing rendition of Alexander’s Ragtime Band. It wouldn’t have been a proper party if we hadn’t!