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The Seth Concert Series – Stephanie J Block | Review

Stephanie J Block
Stephanie J Block

It’s true that we can be our own harshest critics – the Tony Award winner Stephanie J Block on more than one occasion in this concert was concerned that her voice might not be able to hit every single note a particular song demands. In the end, anything missing was purely down to the tech gremlins that crept in occasionally – and always in conversation rather than during a song – in a fascinating and varied concert exploring Block’s stage career to date.

She’s an excellent storyteller through both songs and anecdotes, and the online audience was treated to all sorts of tales including one about a brief but intense stint in custody and another about how she ended up marrying Sebastian Arcelus, the Fiyero to her Elphaba when they starred together in a touring production of Wicked. She spoke about her voice coach (she has stuck with the same one over the years) and the importance of a proper warm-up, especially when one is doing eight shows a week on Broadway, or indeed anywhere else.

I suppose it is only to be expected from top performers like Block, but nonetheless her ability to make herself sound different is remarkable, evidenced here in a (regrettably) brief rendering of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from Mary Poppins, and then later in an almost ridiculously perfect impersonation of Cher, having starred in the 2018-19 Broadway run of the title character in The Cher Show.

There were a lot of musical theatre standards in this concert, such as ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl, ‘Over The Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz and ‘Children Will Listen’ from Into The Woods. Block made them sound fresh and vibrant, as though one were hearing these songs for the first time. Host and musical director Seth Rudetsky draw out some interesting details and stories from Block’s past – I certainly wasn’t aware that perhaps the only times when she felt consciously nervous was when singing the US national anthem at major sporting fixtures, or that she was incredibly dedicated to social justice issues. Or indeed that she worked at the Disneyland resort in California.

Aside from ‘When You Meet A Boy’ and a reworked version of ‘Believe’ (slowed right down to ballad pace, as per The Cher Show musical, in order for people to listen to the words rather than be taken in by the pulsating beat of the radio version), ‘I’m Breaking Down’, from Falsettos, was delivered with vigour and hilarity – if one can see the dark humour in the song. Overall, an insightful, marvellous and fun couple of hours.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Tony Award Winner Stephanie J. Block has established herself as one of Broadway’s most versatile leading ladies. She most recently starred in The Cher Show for which she won the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, and received a Drama League Award nomination. Previously, Ms. Block starred in the Broadway revival of FALSETTOS (Tony Award Nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Outer Critics Award Nomination, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical), LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (Tony Award Nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and Drama Desk Award Nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical), ANYTHING GOES, BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK; 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical), WICKED, THE PIRATE QUEEN, THE BOY FROM OZ. She starred in the First Nat’l Touring Company of WICKED as Elphaba (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress, Carbonell Award for Best Actress in a Musical).

Stephanie has sung with numerous symphony orchestras around the U.S. Her solo concert has been critically acclaimed in NYC and London. Her voice can be heard on the original cast recordings of THE BOY FROM OZ, THE PIRATE QUEEN, and 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Grammy Nomination), and of course her own album, THIS PLACE I KNOW. She is a proud member of The Musical Theatre Guild and has been a member of Actors’ Equity since 1995. Stephaniejblock.com

STEPHANIE J. BLOCK
SUNDAY, AUG 16 @ 8PM
https://thesethconcertseries.com/

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