Posted on June 24, 2003 at 12:00 pm
HAVING already left an indelible mark on this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival with two remarkable but very different shows, New York composer Jason Robert Brown once again delivered the goods to bring this year’s event to a rousing finale.
Unlike his complete shows Songs for a New World and The Last Five Years, the closing concert was a grab-bag of tunes from other assignments, ranging from Tony Award-winning musicals to box office duds, from incidental music reinterpreted for albums to songs which have never been recorded – and therefore never before heard in Australia. Again, they demonstrated the amazing diversity of his writing.
From his opening piano-and-vocal pleas to "Let the music begin" (Music of Heaven) through the rambling, back-pedaling humour and boogie-woogie groove of I Could Be In Love with Someone Like You, Brown comes across like the Billy Joel of Broadway. His witty, savvy observations on human emotions and relationship frailties struck a chord.
Brown’s favourite foil, Broadway singer Lauren Kennedy, joined in mostly on longing ballads and bittersweet duets, althought she got to have more fun with the rollicking ragtime of Pretty Music from Parade and the gutsier Dolly Parton-style twang of Mr Hopalong Heartbreak from the much-maligned Urban Cowboy.
Brown, in turn, put his occasionally shaky, nasal upper registers to good use on the fiddle-driven yokel strains of It Don’t Get Better Than This.
One minute he’s the king of croon, belting out the wickedly funny Grow Old With Me over a Billy May-style swing arrangement, the next he’s scatting jazz-style over the brilliantly layered complexity of I’m in Bizness. Gues vocalist Judi Connelli even returned to repeat her New World show-stopper, Surabaya-Santa.
The only dull point was an uncharacteristically dour introduction to two more songs from Parade.
However, the show ended in rousing form with Brown’s shell-shocked response to September 11, Coming Together. While he expressed fear that, in light of more recent world events, it may sound like propaganda, the bluesy prayer built into a full-blown gospel rave and seemed an appropriately personal yet universally optimistic note on which to end.