Rose Kingsley Sings the Songs of Johnny Mercer
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, October 24, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
With a superb understanding and control of her voice, no one would ever guess that Rose Kingsley was also an operatic diva. Kingsley has made the transition from the opera stage, where she enjoyed great success, to pop/blues/jazz singing with ease. She displays a thorough understanding of vocal dynamics and a technique that allows her to use her four-octave range to best effect. She has a particular fondness for Johnny Mercer, having worked closely with these selections on the West Coast (her base) with music director and Mercer son-in-law, Bob Corwin. Jon Weber, master of the keys, music directed this outing of Mercer with his usual command of the material. Kingsley does the songs proud. Her “Blues in the Night” (Harold Arlen) and “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael) were but two examples of sensitive delivery and fine phrasing. Ditto “I’m Old Fashioned” (Jerome Kern) and “Laura,” which Mercer set lyrics to after David Raksin’s film theme had become popular.
Kingsley’s narrative, a well-researched and fascinating look into Mercer and his output, is delightfully supplemented by the fact that the singer herself is terrific fun. She’s completely at home and relaxed on stage, rounding out the delightful experience of her show. It was a treat to hear the original “Autumn Leaves” in French (Joseph Kosma/Jacques Prévert, with English lyric by Mercer), as well as a creative pairing of “Goody Goody” (Matty Malneck) and “Too Marvelous for Words” (Richard Whiting). Guitarist Andrew Poretz was Kingsley’s special guest. Poretz, who has an extroverted stage presence the equal of Kingsley’s, revealed a well-honed talent for singing as well as guitar playing. Sans his instrument for this outing, he offered a swinging “Day In, Day Out” (Rube Bloom) and, with Kingsley, “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Arlen), in which both demonstrated a feel for the music with excellent synergy. The energetic and personable Kingsley closed out her superb tour of Mercer (and a supremely entertaining show) with two works composed by Henry Mancini—“Moon River” flowing gracefully into “The Days of Wine and Roses.”