Broadway performer Alison Fraser, left, accompanied by New York-based pianist Allison Leyton-Brown, right, and area musicians, will present the Tennessee Williams Songbook Thursday. Photo by: Courtesy photo
September 1, 2012 7:19:35 PM
The upcoming 11th annual Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes in Columbus Sept. 4-9 will take on a decidedly Broadway air at its Moon Lake Party Sept. 6 at the Columbus Country Club.
Two-time Tony Award-nominee Alison Fraser will sing a jewel box of songs from plays by Tennessee Williams. She'll be accompanied by piano virtuoso Allison Leyton-Brown and a trio of area musicians including Chris Fowlkes and Shondaleria Williams of Columbus and Stephanie Jackson of Starkville.
"When Blanche Dubois sings 'It's Only a Paper Moon' in the bathtub, that's when 'A Streetcar Named Desire' begins to derail. In almost all his plays Williams floats pop tunes as bubbles of hope that inevitably burst," said David Kaplan, who compiled this Tennessee Williams Songbook and directs the entertaining showcase. Kaplan is curator of the Provinctown Tennessee Williams Festival in Massachusetts and is a repeat visitor to Columbus' annual Tribute presented by the Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes Committee.
"Williams began 'Streetcar' with a vision of a woman sitting alone in the moonlight, waiting for someone who would never come. Laced with hot music, that's the Tennessee Williams Songbook," Kaplan said.
The repertoire includes songs such as "If I Didn't Care," "St. Louis Blues" and a sultry "Sweet Leilani," as well as some Noel Coward and Duke Ellington. Kaplan promises unexpected delights, from country-western ballads and Mississippi blues to Italian romance.
Fraser, a Massachusetts native who has appeared on Broadway, at Carnegie Hall, The White House and beyond, earned Tony nominations for her performances in "Secret Garden" and "Romance/Romance." The classically-trained Leyton-Brown of New York City is acclaimed for a "dazzling array of musical styles," noted Kaplan.
Fowlkes, a Columbus native who had moved back to town only a couple of weeks before he got the phone call about joining the ensemble, didn't think twice about saying yes.
"I'm excited about this. Right now, we're (local musicians) working with sheet music they've sent us and we're looking forward to the full rehearsal," the upright bass player said.
Tribute committee founder and chair Brenda Caradine expressed thanks to William Kidd for use of a baby grand piano for the event.
"And David Kaplan will be in Columbus for this premiere of the Songbook before it goes to his festival at the end of September," she remarked.
The party's name pays homage to Moon Lake, an actual site in northwest Mississippi Williams used as a setting in more than one play.
Soul food supper
The gala evening also includes a soul food feast of fried chicken, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, dessert and iced tea. After dinner and libations at a cash bar, party patrons will be treated to the Songbook showcase.
"This will be great entertainment! Who could ask for anything more?" Caradine said.
Reservations and advance tickets to the Moon Lake Party are required. Tickets are $50, available at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., Columbus. For more information, call 662-328-2787 or 662-328-0222.
For a complete schedule of Tribute events, including many that are free, visit muw.edu/tennesseewilliams.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.