Songbook Summit

Created and Produced by Peter & Will Anderson

Off Broadway, Concert
Ran through 8.27.17
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street

by Shoshana Roberts on 9.1.17

Songbook SummitJeb Patton, Molly Ryan, Peter Anderson, Will Anderson, Clovis Nicolas, and Phil Stewart in Songbook Summit.

 A jazz performance that takes you through the lives and music of four prolific composers: Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers.

The Songbook Summit consists of one month of music at 59E59 Theaters. Each week is dedicated to a specific composer from the Great American Songbook: Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers. I had the pleasure of seeing a show performing and honoring the works of Richard Rodgers. For those who are not familiar with Rodgers, no need to worry. Producers Peter and Will Anderson set up the show with multiple components to lead you through Rodgers' life.

The majority of the Songbook Summit is simply a jazz show, but there are also supplementary materials. A presentation, projected onto a screen on the back wall, includes drawings from the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, clips from interviews, appearances on TV shows, movie clips, and photographs. The evening features a mix of Rodgers' most popular songs with some that are more obscure. Each reference is lovingly met with “ooo”s and “ahhh”s from the audience when they recognize a name. For instance, Will recites a long list of musical artists from Elvis Presley and John Coltrane, to Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin who performed the song we're about to hear. Every name elicits a murmur from the crowd. By the time they start playing “Blue Moon,” there's a great energy in the theatre. Thursday night, Peter Anderson played tenor sax, soprano sax, and clarinet; Will Anderson was on alto sax, clarinet, and flute; Jeb Patton was on piano; Neil Miner was on bass; Phil Stewart was on drums; and Molly Ryan served as the vocalist for many of the songs. 

We hum along to classics like “It Might As Well be Spring,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Manhattan”; see clips from various musicals; and hear all about Rodgers' life: growing up in Harlem as a German Jew, working first with lyricist Lorenz Hart, and then collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein II. We learn that he won numerous awards (including fifteen Oscars, thirty-five Tonys, and two Pulitzers). Besides the background, we get some facts about music, with the Doo-wop chord progression explained briefly, and a reference to major scales, but these more intricate details are just quick references.

Peter and Will Anderson are two extremely talented individuals. Both play multiple instruments and are quite charming. I have had the pleasure of seeing them before and had a wonderful experience enjoying their soulful music. This production differs in a few ways. One is that it is in 59E59's Theater A. This main stage is larger than the theater I saw them in before. Perhaps there is more of an expectation as a result. I love music, jazz specifically, the Great American Songbook, and the Anderson Brothers, but the recipe here needed a bit more preparation. It was a wonderful evening, but not ready for Theater A.

(Songbook Summit played at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through August 27, 2017. The running time was one hour and thirty minutes with no intermission. Tickets were $35.)

Songbook Summit was created and produced by Peter and Will Anderson.

The performers were Peter Anderson, Will Anderson, Steve Ash, Tardo Hammer, Neal Miner, Clovis Nicolas, Jeb Patton, Molly Ryan, and Phil Stewart.