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Richard Holbrook: It's Time For a Love Song:

The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, A Centennial Celebration

Richard Holbrook: It's Time For a Love Song: The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, A Centennial Celebration

Richard Holbrook. Photo by Jeffrey Hornstein
 Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors

It's not often these days to find a performer who can be counted on to deliver a show with as much joy and charm as Richard Holbrook.  Holbrook has upped his game with growing expressiveness, secure vocal tone, his likable natural demeanor as well as a signature clarity, diction and devotion to the Great American Songbook. 

This show salutes the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner and his theater songbooks with composers of the lush melodies of Burton Lane, a bit of Kurt Weill, Andre Previn, Leonard Bernstein ("Take Care of This House") and most notably, Frederick Loewe.  With Loewe, Lerner created top of the theater heap's gems like My Fair Lady, Gigi and Camelot. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and his encore, "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady are delivered with heart and beauty.

Lerner's clever, poignant and witty lyrics are perfect fits with the memorable melodies of his composers.  Holbrook's generous selection is right on the beat of Burton's irresistible drive of "Come Back to Me" ("On a mule; In a jet/ With your hair in a net/ In a towel ringing wet --I don't care/This is where/You should be"). With Loewe's operatic influence from his background in Vienna, for their first hit show, Brigadoon, Lerner wrote the outstanding poetic lyrics of "Almost Like Being in Love" well paired with the picturesque nostalgia of "The Heather on the Hill" ("All the clouds are holdin' still.")

For this centennial show, Holbrook chooses a lyricist to salute with a range of genres.  He finds the core of the Lerner songbook and presents them like little treasures in that familiar blue box.  Holbrook was always drawn to the romantic side of popular American music, like "It's Time For A Love Song" (with Lane for Carmelita) and "Too Late Now" with Lane (Royal Wedding).  Now, also from Royal Wedding, Holbrook shows his comic vaudevillian song-and-dance pizzazz in "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?"  From the same underrated film, which Lerner co-wrote with Fred Astaire, he delivered Lerner's jivey "Sunday Jumps" and an inviting "Ev'ry Night At Seven."  A witty ditty is, "Economics" from Love Life with music by Kurt Weill.

Holbrook has neatly edited his patter for this show, revealing just enough personal and professional Lerner bio to make room for almost 25 luscious songs, delivered with colorful jazz stylings by the Tom Nelson Trio with musical director Nelson on piano, Dick Sarpola on bass and Peter Grant on drums. 


Richard Holbrook
It's Time For a Love Song:
The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, A Centennial Celebration
Don't Tell Mama
353 - West 46th Street, NYC
80 minutes.
Sept. 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15, 2018
Accompanying Musicians: Tom Nelson Trio (Tom Nelson, musical director and pianist), Dick Sarpola on bass, Peter Grant on drums

Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
September 2018

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