The Artist Series of Sarasota has become so popular it is giving more than 50 performances this season.
From classical to musicals, there’s something for everyone. This season, the series presented a weekend of favorites from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Broadway in a format similar to New York City’s long-running, successful series, “Lyrics and Lyricists” at the 92nd Street Y.
This was a fail-safe idea because they brought in a quartet of talented, young, attractive singers supported in all the right ways by pianist Joseph Holt. But the trick is to turn classical performers into Broadway stars and, in most cases, their efforts worked.
Center stage at the Historic Asolo was the Steinway, surrounded by four chairs where the singers perched and awaited his or her turn to sing excerpts from six of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s greatest hits: “State Fair,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music,” “Carousel” and “Oklahoma.”
Soprano Angela Mortellaro, mezzo Katherine Pracht, tenor Aaron Blake and bass-baritone Michael Sumuel did some solo stints, including a gorgeous rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine” by Sumuel and a dreamy “Out of My Dreams” by Mortellaro. But the most winning portions were those in which the singers paired off, especially “People Will Say We’re in Love” with Mortellaro and Blake.
Yes, there were moments when one or two of the singers were more operatic than Broadway, but, for the most part, they were able to convert their classical backgrounds to stylish performances of what is really America’s classical music.
Lee Dougherty Ross, the co-founder (with her husband) of this successful series, read a somewhat stilted and not terribly illuminating script. Usually heard at the piano, this was a different medium for this tremendously talented lady and, as always, she looked stunning.
Holt was the exceptionally sensitive pianist holding all the music together and his performance of the “Carousel Waltz,” which opened the second half, turned the 88 keys into an orchestra.