‘First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb at The Kennedy Center by Joel Markowitz

There’s enough ‘razzle dazzle’ and ‘all that jazz’ at First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb to satisfy any John Kander and Fred Ebb fan and all fans of musical theatre. The new Kennedy Center production is co-conceived by Eric Schaeffer and David Loud. Schaeffer, who directed the 2009 Signature Theatre production, and who again directs the show. The Signature production starred Norm Lewis, (now starring as Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess on Broadway), Eleasha Gamble (who is serving as Dance Captain for this production), and Julia Murney, as well as James Clow (Assassins), Matthew Scott (Jersey Boys), and Heidi Blickenstaff (The Little Mermaid) – who have returned for this new production. Joining them are Leslie Kritzer, Alan H. Green, and Patina Miller (Tony nominated last year for Sister Act).

First You Dream 2: (l-r) Patina Miller, Heidi Blickenstaff and Leslie Kritzer in the Kennedy Center production of 'First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Filled with great singing by this heavenly group of Broadway stars First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb is one of the most enjoyable nights at The Kennedy Center I have ever had. Rarely do you have this much talent in 10 musicals – so to have all of these glorious voices on one stage – well I wanted to just ‘Ring Them Bells’ and tell everyone in the DC Metro area to run and buy tickets, and enjoy this Kander and Ebb lovefest.

The vocally stellar cast peforms 36 jewels from five decades of the Kander and Ebb Songbook – including “City Lights,” “Cabaret,” “The Cell Block Tango,” “Maybe This Time,” and “Sing Happy,” -from their musicals, two movies, and a television special – Flora the Red Menace, The Act, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, 70, Girls, 70, The Happy Time, Woman of the Year, Liza with a Z, Steel Pier, New York, New York, Chicago, Cabaret, Curtains, Funny Lady, The Visit,  and Zorba. What a resume!

Throw in a 23-piece orchestra (performing on the stage) conducted by Signature Theatre’s Jon Kalbfleisch, with brassy and lush orchestrations by William David Brohn (Orchestrations), vocal arrangements by David Loud, and 23 great musicians (special kudos to the great brass section) – and you are in Kander and Ebb paradise!

James Kronzer’s set has two sets of stairs where actors stand, sit, walk up and down to the stage, and sing and perform. Costume Designer Kathleen Geldard dresses the women in dark glittery dresses and the men in suits. Kai Harada’s sound design is perfection. The balance between the orchestra and the singers was excellent and the orchestra never drowned out the singers. Never.  Lighting Designer Howell Binkley used many spotlights and lit up the stage in many bright colors. His lighting was pure ‘Razzmatazz.’

All six performers had their chance to show off their immense vocal talents: Patina Miller sang a colorful and emotional “City Lights.” Leslie Kritzer delivered a haunting “I Don’t Care Much” (usually sung by a man – The Emcee – in Cabaret). Alan H. Green’s powerful vocals on “Love and Love Alone” (from The Visit) and “Love Is” (from Zorba) received the loudest applause of the evening. Matthew Scott wowed the audience with his passionate combination of “Cabaret” and “I Miss the Music” (from Curtains), while Heidi Blickenstaff made the audience chuckle with her energetic version of “Ring Them Bells” (from the TV special Liza with a ‘Z’). James Clow delivered beautiful vocals on “My Own Space. (from The Act).

The production really took off when when the performers’ voices blended together and created divine harmonies.

As Alan and Leslie sang “Colored Lights” (from The Rink)  Lighting Designer Howell Binkley filled The Eisenhower Theater stage with (you guessed it) multi-colored lights. James, Matthew, Alan hammed it up with a  funny Military Man and had a great time dancing Karma Camp’s fun choreography.

James Clow sang a moving “Blue Crystal” (from The Rink) and his gorgeous baritone rang out as he was joined by Patina Miller on the heartwarming “Marry Me.” Gorgeous harmonies abounded when Heidi Blickenstaff, Leslie Kritzer, James Clow, and Matthew Scott sang “Dear One” (from Kiss of the Spider Woman), and when Heidi and Leslie sang a combination of “The Money Tree” (from The Act) and “Maybe This Time” (from the film version of Cabaret). 

First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb is a great tribute to the legacy and genius of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Run and buy tickets and enjoy this fabulously entertaining journey through the career and songs of two musical theatre legends and giants. It’s a ‘Must See’!

(l-r) Patina Miller, Heidi Blickenstaff and Leslie Kritzer in the Kennedy Center production of 'First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.

First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb plays through July 1, 2012 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 467-4600 0r (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.


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