The reviews are in for ‘The Soul of Gershwin’ at Park Square

This morning I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing performer T. Mychael Rambo about his remarkable life and career on Midmorning. If you missed the conversation, I strongly recommend you take some time to listen:

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Prudence Johnson, T. Mychael Rambo, and Maggie Burton in “The Soul of Gershwin”

Photo courtesy of Park Square Theatre

Currently Rambo is performing in “The Soul of Gershwin” at Park Square Theatre, which has received some fine reviews from the local press. Check out these excerpts, or click on the links to read the full reviews:

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

How long does it take for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer to capture the audience? A handful of seconds–just enough time for the famed opening clarinet notes from Rhapsody in Blue to be played by Dale Mendenhall. From there, Joseph Vass’s creation is a joyful ride into the roots and eventual results of one of America’s great composers.

From Janet Preus at HowWasTheShow.com:

We have long thought of Gershwin as the guy who put his own stamp on a particular kind of popular, jazz-influenced music – and he did. But this show is out to clarify the relationships and make the point that Gershwin was, above all else, influenced by his own Jewish music and culture and, at its heart, even Summertime from Porgy and Bess owes more to cantorial singing than jazz or gospel. He may be holding hands with jazz or gospel (or ragtime or blues), but at its heart, he wrote his own style of Jewish music.

Three singers – Maggie Burton as The Chazzen or Cantor, Prudence Johnson as The Chanteuse, and T. Michael Rambo as The Griot or Storyteller – make Vass’s premise not just easily digestible, but deliciously so, demonstrating how Gershwin admittedly stole from anywhere and anyone, making famous someone else’s musical phrases in enduring songs such as S’Wonderful and It Ain’t Necessarily So.

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Maggie Burton and Michael Paul Levin in “The Soul of Gerswhin”

Photo courtesy of Park Square Theatre

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

Rambo, Johnson and Burton give the human and personal depth to “Gershwin.” Rambo has such confidence and effortless power, never straining beyond what the score requires. His voice lands tenderly on each note of “Embraceable You.” Johnson has carried Gershwin’s music with her for years, and that knowledge never feels deeper than when she sings “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Burton does the heavy lifting with traditional music but she gets a nice spotlight on “Summertime.”

The spirit of holiday, if not the substance, makes this show feel right this time of year.

From Renee Valois at the Pioneer Press:

Despite the fact that the story doesn’t have the depth one would expect from the title and lacks the emotional power of Gershwin’s songs, it’s still deeply entertaining – because of its stellar music and performances.

A couple of things would improve the show. It feels short at just under two hours (including intermission) and seems stingy with Gershwin’s tunes. It would have been nice to hear more of Gershwin’s many standards – and also to learn a bit more about the composer – in other words, more of a good thing would have been great.

Have you seen “The Soul of Gerswhin?” If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  • http://wrongwayandy@hotmail.com Andy Hjelmeland

    “The soul of Gershwin” was phenomenal. The music, in particular, was mesmerizing. Yes, much about Gershwin’s life was omitted by the time limits of a play, but if you want more details about Gershwin’s life, go to the library. All in all, it was the most entertaining two hours I have spent in many years.