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Judy Kuhn – The Seth Concert Series | Review

Judy Kuhn
Judy Kuhn

There’s a crystal clear delivery in Judy Kuhn’s singing voice that gives her classical training away, though she admits she “always knew” she wasn’t going to end up in the opera, having expressed a penchant in her student days, and even before then, for the theatre. She also says she always knew she didn’t have a strong enough voice for the opera, though I suspect somebody at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music respectfully disagreed, having allowed her to study there in the first place.

Either way, it was evident in this concert that she has had an enjoyable experience on stage, overcoming the challenges of live performance and taking it all in her stride. As ever with concerts of this nature, where the audience also gets to know the actor by way of their personal anecdotes, there were stories about overly arduous audition processes and the sort of off-stage happenings that were arguably more dramatic than whatever was going on in the narrative of a given production.

Rags, which Kuhn appeared in on Broadway, closed after four performances (well, twenty-two if you count the eighteen previews). The director left the show while it was still being rehearsed, leaving composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Stephen Schwartz trying to direct the show themselves, whilst keeping their creative juices flowing at the same time. The leading lady, meanwhile, Teresa Stratas, known for her opera career, displayed her temper on occasion – Kuhn insists it was justified given the stress the company was under. And the icing on the cake? Then, as now, the press found out about the show posting closing notices before the company did.

There were, thankfully, good times to recall too, such as a production of Fun Home that resulted in a couple of sell-out concert performances at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, after the state legislature there withdrew funding from that college because they included the memoir by Alison Bechdel in their curriculum. The story has some LGBT content (indeed, the musical on which the book is based was the first Broadway musical to have a lesbian lead protagonist), which didn’t go down well with state legislators. Kuhn still hears from students who were enrolled at the college at the time, who recall what an incredible time they all had together.

A good range of songs were included in this concert, including ‘Someone Else’s Story’ from Chess, and the title number from Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle. A reminder, too, for audiences on this side of the pond, who may recall her performances in the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Fiddler on the Roof, in the form of ‘Do You Love Me?’, which Kuhn duetted here with musical director Seth Rudetsky. I doubt anyone who isn’t into musicals would be converted by this concert, but for fans of musical theatre, this was a slice of heaven.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Judy Kuhn starred last season as Golde in London in the sold-out production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Menier Chocolate Factory, a role she also played on Broadway in 2016. On Broadway, the four-time Tony Award nominee starred as Helen Bechdel in Fun Home (Tony & Drama League Award nominations) a role she created in the original Public Theater production for which she won the 2014 Lucille Lortell Award. Also on Bway she starred in the Roundabout’s hit revival of She Loves Me (Tony nomination); and the original Broadway productions of Chess (Tony & Drama Desk nomination); Les Misérables (Tony & Drama Desk nomination); Rags (Drama Desk nomination); Two Shakespearean Actors (Lincoln Center Theatre), Alan Menken & Tim Rice’s King David; and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Other select theater includes: The Visit by John Kander, Fred Ebb & Terrence McNally at The Williamstown Theater Festival; Fosca in the much-lauded production of Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine’s Passion (Drama League Award nomination); the inaugural season of Encores! Off-Center in The Cradle Will Rock; US premiere of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the West End, she starred in Metropolis (Olivier Award nomination). Judy sang the title role in Disney’s Pocahontas as well as the in the sequel Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World.

Mark Cortale Presents

Sunday, September 13th at 8PM EST
Monday, September 14th at 3PM EST

Sunday, September 20th at 8PM EST
Monday, September 21st at 3PM EST

Sunday, October 4th at 8PM EST
Monday, October 5th at 3PM EST

Sunday, October 11th at 8PM EST
Monday, October 12th at 3PM EST

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