SARASOTA – Michael Edwards, Producing Artistic Director of the Asolo Repertory Theater, has done it again by bringing Baritones Unbound to the Asolo Rep. The production is a celebration and history of how the baritone voice became more valued from the time of Gregorian chants and religious music, as well as how its importance grew through the works of grand masters such as Mozart, Verdi and Wagner. Later composers of verismo, such as Puccini, and of operetta, such as Gilbert and Sullivan, used baritones in both leading and key supporting roles.
|Marc Kudisch, Jeff Mattsey and Mark Delavan. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman
The story is sung using well known compositions relating to each phase of the baritone's history. The music is supported by narrative that is both clever and humorous. After the turn of the 20th century, the baritone became a staple in the emergence of musical theater as we have come to know it.
Mark Delavan and Jeff Mattsey
Photo by Gary W. Sweetman
Seminal works such as Showboat, Oklahoma, Carousel and subsequent mainstays like Man of La Mancha and Sweeney Todd either relied on baritones to carry the lead or used them in major supporting roles such as Javert in Les Miserables. For this production, songs of popular stars Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley were brought into the mix and added an element of fun that the audience loved.
The stars of Baritones Unbound Marc Kudisch, Jeff Matsey (co-creators) and Mark Delavan are excellent as singers, actors and story tellers. They not only tell the story through beautifully-sung music, but also give the production a humor through their narratives that adds another entertaining dimension for the audience to enjoy.
These are highly talented and recognized performers in the world of musical theater and opera, and they put their high talents on display for Saturday's opening night audience. Timothy Splain provides superb piano accompaniment and ultimately, they represent their baritone brethren most admirably.
If you value knowledge of musical history and love to hear beauty in song, then get to this terrific production performed by these outstanding talents. Baritones Unbound runs at the Mertz Theatre in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts through June 29. Visit Asolo's website for more information.
|(L to R) Mark Delavan, Marc Kudisch, and Jeff Mattsey. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman.
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