I LEFT MY HEART: A Salute To The Music Of Tony Bennett

“I Wanna Be Around,” “Rags To Riches,” “Stranger In Paradise,” “The Good Life,” “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” “Where Do I Begin,” and of course “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” Hear this list of song titles and there’s only one name likely to pop into any music lover’s head—Tony Bennett, a star since his very first Number One record, “Because Of You,” topped the charts way back in 1951 and still going strong at age 86, with seven concert dates coming up in the next month alone.

img_1184 Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater pays tribute to Tony Bennett’s sixty-two years of stardom with its 2013 season opener I Left My Heart: A Salute To Tony Bennett, about as entertaining a way to start off the New Year as any theatergoer could wish for.

I Left My Heart is the brainchild of David Grapes and Todd Olson, the co-creators of My Way: A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra, and like its sister show, features one hit song after another interspersed with biographical tidbits, making for a marvelous evening of musical magic.

img_0918 Rather than attempt to imitate Bennett’s inimitable song stylings, I Left My Heart showcases what its creative team have dubbed Tenor 1, Tenor 2, and Tenor 3, and with Caleb Shaw, Richard Bermudez, and Damon Kirsche giving each of these tenor tracks his own distinctive sound, it’s hard to imagine a better trio of vocalists than those on the Candlelight stage, particularly as directed by John LaLonde, with musical direction by Martin Green.

With each performer more handsome than the other, and with Jean-Yves Tessier’s spectacularly colorful lighting illuminating performers, musicians, and his own glitzy set, this is one gorgeous production to look at. Still, it’s the vocal performances that folks will be raving about as they head on home.

img_1170 There’s no more charismatic or talented a leading man than one-and-only Kirsche, StageSceneLA’s Scenie-winning Musical Theater Star Of The Year, whose vocals in I Left My Heart recall the best Big Band singers of years gone by. Bermudez is a stunner as well, with as crystal clear a musical theater tenor as you could ask for. Newcomer Shaw is no less dazzling, his rich pop vocals making this reviewer an instant fan for life.

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Together and in tandem, the oh-so talented threesome give us not only the songs mentioned at the start of this review but many of the 20th Century’s greatest standards: “As Time Goes By,” Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Crazy Rhythm,” Embraceable You,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,” “I Got Rhythm,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing” …  and that’s just the first nine letters of the alphabet.

As for the songwriters represented on the Candlelight stage, they don’t come any better than Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, George and Ira Gershwin, Michel LeGrand, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, and Cole Porter, to name just some of the composers and lyricists behind I Left My Heart’s medley of three dozen songs.

img_1054 Also given their solo moments to shine is the onstage band made up of Gino Munoz or Robert Slack on trumpet, Brandon Shaw on bass, Alan Waddington on drums, and Chris Wills on piano, the entire vocal and instrumental team performing to the original piano and vocal arrangements of Vince Di Mura.

With the Rodgers & Hammerstein classics The Sound Of Music and The King And I, the 60s smash Sweet Charity, Stephen Sondheim’s epic Sweeney Todd, and the crowd-pleasing The Full Monty among the Broadway hits featured in Candlelight’s upcoming season, the year ahead looks to be a sensational one for those in the mood for a combination of fine dining and even finer musical theater. I Left My Heart: A Salute To The Music Of Tony Bennett starts off Candlelight Pavilion 2013 with a bang.

Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

–Steven Stanley
January 13, 2013

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