On Sunday, September 23 Chelsea Emma Franko, LA's Next Great Stage Star 2012, debuted her cabaret evening The Girl from Apple Valley to a warmly enthusiastic SRO crowd at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. Like most young performers, who present their life. so. far in a 60 minute set - Chelsea amazingly did it in 50 - Franko's was one of the very best I've seen. She's beautiful with a truly great vocal instrument and knows how to rivet her audience with just the right amount of pleasurable banter. She doesn't prolong the unnecessary nor is she excessive in any way. Super talented James Lent served as musical director at the piano, except when Chelsea's uncle Craig A. Meyer accompanied her as she sang his delightful piece "Fly".
Highlights of the evening included many showstoppers like "Other Side of the Tracks", which she named her audition song, "Gimme, Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie - she idolized Sutton Foster as a teenager, Marvin Hamlisch's dynamic "Disneyland" from Smile, and the much overdone, yet enjoyable "Alto's Lament". Surprises were a gorgeous combo of "Blackbird" with "Someone to Watch Over Me", which became lullabies for Chelsea at an early age, a precious "You Made Me Love You", sung to a portrait of Gene Kelly, whom she also idolized growing up, and a deliciously goofy "Nobody Does It Like Me" from Seesaw. There was also the intriguing "Sailor of My Dreams", which her voice teacher Deborah had used to train the ins and outs of her singing style. She opened nicely with "Life I Never Lead" and closed with a simply lovely "Over the Rainbow" which she dedicated to her grandmother, recently deceased, and to anyone else who, as she euphemistically put it, "changed their address".
Franko is a terribly engaging human being with a sensational voice, who should truly make it big in this business. Thus far, she's played Roxy in Chicago, Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie and is about to start rehearsals for Hairspray for 3D Theatricals. After that she will do White Christmas with her actress mom Karla J. Franko in San Diego. Watch for her; she's worth rooting for!