Lee Summers

July 23, 2009

Winds of Change ~ The Triad

monthly; next show August 3, 9:30

You may be familiar with Lee Summers in his capacity as General Manager of The Triad. If that is the extent of your exposure to him, you’re in for a big surprise when you see him perform. When he takes the stage, the genial but conservative man you thought you knew becomes a wonderfully talented entertainer—funny, charming, handsome, spontaneous, sometimes even mischievous, and a damned good singer-with personality enough for four. The contrast rivals Clark Kent’s transformation into Superman.

The show, which was directed by Leslie Dockery and has musical direction and piano accompaniment by the terrific Timothy Graphenreed, traces Summers’s professional career: performing at Nashville’s Opryland USA while attending college, gigs in Monte Carlo and French Lick, Indiana and at New York’s Improv and Motown Cafe, and being cast in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls.

He follows a charming and wickedly playful performance of Rufus Thomas’s “Walking the Dog” with a mournful interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” He and we have fun with a Motown medley, and his handling of “Please Come to Boston” by Dave Loggins is sweetly affecting. The show includes a few original songs by Summers; “Holding On,” with its short phrases, doesn’t land, but he scores with the celebratory and melodically more interesting “Winds of Change.” “Strangers in the Night” by Bert Kaempfert, Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder, performed as a one-song homage to Frank Sinatra, should be cut. It’s not that Summers doesn’t do it well, the song and tribute simply do not belong in this show; this is the evening’s only miscalculation. The encore, Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles,” is stunning: Summers doesn’t just sing the song, he delivers a subtle but deeply moving mini-character-study. I’ve been touched by other renditions of this song, but this is the only one that’s made me cry. This number is enhanced by the additional accompaniment of guest artist Nicholas Orifici on viola.



About the Author

Roy Sander has been covering cabaret and theatre for over thirty years. He’s written cabaret and theatre reviews, features, and commentary for seven print publications, most notably Back Stage, and for CitySearch on the Internet. He covered cabaret monthly on “New York Theatre Review” on PBS TV, and cabaret and theatre weekly on WLIM-FM radio. He was twice a guest instructor at the London School of Musical Theatre. A critic for BistroAwards.com, he is also the site’s Reviews Editor; in addition, he is Chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC.