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Theatre Review (LA): Neil Berg’s Broadway Holiday at the Geffen

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Neil Berg is a distinguished producer and musical director who has produced Broadway concerts featuring stars such as Michael Crawford, Donna McKechnie, Betty Buckley, Ben Vereen, Alice Ripley, and Stephanie Block. These concerts have toured around the world. His special Christmas concert, Neil Berg’s Broadway Holiday, is touring to over 120 U.S. cities in 2010-2011, and he has brought the show to the Geffen along with some of his Broadway buddies Jeffry Denham (White Christmas), Rita Harvey (Phantom of the Opera) who happens to be Berg’s wife, Ivan Rutherford (Les Miserables), Marc Kudisch (Nine to Five), and Carter Calvert (It Ain’t Nothing but The Blues and Cats).

In the first act the show consists of these actors singing songs from the shows they were associated with. Highlights included Ivan Rutherford singing “Oh What a Night”, “Bring Him Home”, and “Something’s Coming.” Mr. Rutherford has a ringing tenor voice and really filled his numbers with emotion.

Marc Kudisch regaled us with a stirring “Where is the Life” from Kiss Me Kate. Ms. Calvert sang “Don’t Rain on My Parade” which she had to perform following Berg’s long discussion of Barbara Streisand. Though a good singer Ms. Calvert couldn’t live up to the introduction. The first act seemed to be little more than a celebration of Broadway songs that had little to do with Christmas and sometimes little to do with the performers singing the numbers.

The second act was much more successful in that it had a theme—Christmas—and seemed more personal. Kudisch sang a very funny “Lonely Jew” where he bemoaned how difficult it was to be a Jew at Christmas. Berg played “The Carol of The Bells” with great skill and passion. Calvert sang “Memories” from Cats. Yes, it was a role she had played, but it had the context of a story she told us of her first big break when she was auditioning to understudy for Grisabella but got the leading part.

Rutherford and Harvey sang a duet from Phantom of the Opera which, again, seemed arbitrary except for the fact that Harvey had played it and she was married to Berg. In fairness I must say that she sang it very well.

The set and costumes for the show were a bit tacky but when the women wore their own clothes in Act Two they looked smashing. Neil Berg’s Broadway Holiday will play at the Geffen Playhouse until Jan 2nd.

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