You know that annoying habit we have of combining couples’ names to form one idiotic name – you know, Brangelina, TomKat, Bennifer.
Well, I have a new one. After last night’s 42nd Street Moon salon saluting the work of Jerome Kern, I’d like to introduce you to Lukern. There’s no more beautiful soprano on Broadway than Rebecca Luker’s, and as the evening’s host, Greg MacKellan, pointed, nobody short of Richard Rodgers had Kern’s gift for gorgeous melody. So when Rebecca meets Jerome, beauty ensues. Hence, Lukern.
As the evening’s featured guest, Luker got to sing two of my favorite Kern songs, “The Way You Look Tonight” and “They Didn’t Believe Me.” She also got to show off her comic chops – something a soprano doesn’t often get to do when she’s playing Marian the Librarian or Maria von Trapp – on “My Husband’s First Wife.” For the section on Show Boat, we got the old switcheroo. In the 1994 Broadway revival, Luker was Magnolia, and Debbie de Coudreaux was a member of the ensemble and the understudy for Julie. So MacKellan, who also directed and wrote the evening in addition to serving as genial host, decided to let them sing each other’s songs.
De Coudreaux, after a little lyric fumble, did a lovely job with “Make Believe,” then Luker brought down the house with “Bill.” The former cast mates joined forces on a rousing “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”
The men of the ensemble – Bill Fahrner, Pierce Peter Brandt and Michael Scott Wells – with an assist from the lovely Alexandria Kaprielian, got to sink their musical teeth into an extremely interesting Kern song from 1929’s Sweet Adeline (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein) – it’s a long, involved song about three guys who don’t know they’re in love with the same woman, and it’s practically like a wonderful little musical in and of itself.
The great thing about an evening like this is that the great tunes just keep pouring off the stage of the Alcazar Theatre. Just when you think you’ve heard a favorite, out pops another gem – like when Fahrner unfurled a tender “Why Was I Born” or when he sang Kern’s own favorite song, “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star.”
As 42nd Street Moon evolves and starts doing shows that aren’t necessarily lost or forgotten (heck, for their next show, they’re doing something brand new: a two-man musical called Murder for Two), it’s nice to settle in for an evening of songs – some incredibly famous, and some hardly ever performed. There’s no chance Jerome Kern will ever be forgotten, but it’s nice to be reminded of the depth of his songbook and of his incredible gift for writing a sumptuous tune.