Across a Crowded Room | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Across a Crowded Room 

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This year's celebration of Richard Rodgers's centennial has done more than commemorate the genius behind a body of work that includes more than 900 songs, among them several dozen of the best-loved tunes in the American popular repertoire; it's also helped illustrate the composer's enormous versatility, which paradoxically has obscured him among his artistic peers. Before the nationwide centennial hoopla (which included last year's major biography by Meryle Secrest), Rodgers seldom topped anyone's list in discussions of the great 20th-century songwriters--instead Arlen, Berlin, Gershwin, Ellington, Porter, or even Sondheim would come up first. In fact most people still have trouble fully appreciating Rodgers's monumental achievement: he created so many wildly different melodies, each nearly perfect in its own way ("My Funny Valentine," "Oklahoma," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "The Sweetest Sounds"), that it's hard to think of them all as the output of one man. Because Rodgers so rarely repeated himself--he didn't just pick from a collection of trademark hooks, for instance, or fall back again and again on a particular kind of harmony--his music sometimes seems like the work of several composers. Yet the same Richard Rodgers responsible for the wit of "Thou Swell," the wistful purity of "Blue Moon," and the intelligent grace of "Lover" (three of the roughly five hundred songs he wrote with lyricist Lorenz Hart) also crafted the soaring melancholy of "If I Loved You," the foreboding simplicity of "My Favorite Things," and the voluptuous romance of "Some Enchanted Evening" (all written with his other longtime collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein II). The lyrics to "Some Enchanted Evening" have provided the title of this revue, headlined by San Francisco singer Cory Jamison; she has the emotional range to do justice to Rodgers's music, and her presentation falls neatly between jazz and cabaret, wedding the two idioms without pretense. The show also includes two local cabaret artists, Tom Michael and Joan Curto; musical director and pianist Dan Stetzel leads a trio of supporting instrumentalists. Thursday through Saturday, August 22 through 24, 8 PM, Sunday, August 25, 9 PM, and Wednesday through next Saturday, August 28 through 31, 8 PM, Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee; 773-278-1830.

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