By David Dow Bentley III www.ThePeoplesCritic.com [Click any photo to enlarge]
And speaking of a “match,” the wonderful “BROADWAY LIGHTS” production Miss Estes’ Lone Star Lyric troupe just provided Houstonians was performed at the local MATCH Theatre Complex (https://matchouston.org/) located at 3400 Main Street in Houston. The event was a follow-up to the recent roadshow performances that took place during the group’s cabaret tour across North and West Texas under the auspices of both the Texas Hill Country Opera & Arts, and the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium Applause Series. Here in Houston, the cozy Matchbox Theatre 1 venue was an intimate space with comfortable seating, and the audience surrounding the performers on three sides of a small stage that was backed by soft curtains, glowing in ever-changing pastel lighting from designer, Jim Elliot.
The group’s wonderful trio includes Joseph Li on piano, Alan Simmons on bass, and Carol Daubert on drums, — each a brilliant musician of the first class, and all a joy to the ear thanks to fine balanced sound from designer, Kevin Romero. Perfectly capping that collaboration would be a night of sublime vocals from frequent Lone Star Lyric performer, Stephonne Smith, and of course from the group’s gifted soprano and founder, Miss Estes, now in her 13th year of bringing eclectic and sophisticated musical joys to Houstonians who know outstanding music when they hear it.
The first delicious taste of the band came with its upbeat Overture from the classic musical, Gypsy. That was a perfect lead-in to Estes’ first number from that same show, a shimmering rendition of, “Some People,” that was as much a touching drama as it was a vocal triumph.
Wearing a chic plaid suit and elegant black turtle neck, it was then Mr. Smith’s turn to immediately captivate the audience with his rich, resonant, and commanding bass voice, delivering the song, “Razzle Dazzle” from the musical Chicago. It was seasoned with playful nonsense that included wide-eyed facial expressions, gentle movement, and even a seated soft-shoe dance that added to the fun. Displaying bird-like vocal purity, Estes followed with a lilting and lovely medley of tunes from The Sound of Music that had the audience singing along for “Do-Re-Me,” and then ending with an “Edelweiss” as clean as alpine snow. The pair then combined forces for an equally satisfying medley of Lerner & Lowe show tunes. “The Rain in Spain” was a merry duet with great percussion elements from Miss Daubert. Smith hit homeruns with, “On the Street Where You Live,” and a dreamy, rich, “If Ever I would Leave You,” that would have had a standing ovation from the late Robert Goulet. Kelli’s perky, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” was a winner as well, before the pair delivered another darling bit of theatre with their touching, “I Remember It Well,” from Gigi.
It is worth noting that in addition to his many national and international Broadway and concert successes, the talented Mr. Smith toured for six years playing the title role of Mufasa in the Broadway musical, The Lion King. His stunning performance here of, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” was ample proof of why he was chosen. Before night’s end, his additional conquests would include a soaring, “Luck Be a Lady,” a sensational Man of La Mancha medley, a zesty, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” a “One For My Baby” that would have brought Sinatra to his feet, and a thrillingly breath-taking, “Old Man River,” the very song that launched Smith’s career when he was still in high school. Meanwhile, Estes had a parade of triumphs of her own that included a poignant “Somebody, Somewhere,” from The Most Happy Fella, a lashing performance of “Cabaret,”, a magical, “Bewitched,” a radiant, “Over the Rainbow,” (with lighting to match), and a breezy “Summertime,” with great solo moments from the band (which also offered a fine Gershwin medley, brilliantly headlined by maestro Li on the eighty-eight for a delicate, tender performance of, “I Love You, Porgy”).
Of course there were additional beautiful pairings with our stars joining forces for a very wonderful, “Wunderbar,” and a splendid medley of countless wonderful tunes from the vast Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook that seemed a tour of Broadway all on its own. The closing, “Tonight, Tonight,” from West Side Story was the perfect musical symbol of a night to remember.
No wonder Lone Star Lyric fans can hardly wait for the next offering, a holiday show aptly titled, “All That Glitters,” running November 30th thru December 2nd. For tickets and information visit the MATCH website mentioned above (phone 731-521-4533), or contact www.LoneStarLyric.org, and LoneStarLyric@gmail.com (phone 917-414-9577).
A member of both The Lambs Club and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com .