Leslie Uggams' show Uptown Downtown, which traces her career from uptown Harlem to downtown Broadway is now a glorious CD. Of course, it is always better to see this great singer live, as she sizzles in front of her audience, but since appearances have sorrowfully become fewer and fewer, how wonderful to have an album of all the terrific music associated with Miss Uggams, whose miraculous vocal instrument and style translate so evocatively brilliant to record.
Including 21 tracks, all the memorable songs are here from the show, plus Uggams proudly telling of her undisputed triumphant beginnings at the Apollo Theatre at age 9. Act 1 has these first songs in Harlem: the rousing "There's a Boat That's Leavin", "Sunny Side of the Street","Up a Lazy River", "A Tisket a Tasket", "Up on the Roof", an intensely subtle "Good Morning Heartache", an ever so deliciously jazzy rendition of "Hello Young Lovers", and the unforgettable "A Train". As Uggams declares, "Uptown will always be a part of me. It gave me my life, my soul and my music."
Act 2 has the beautiful strains of "Love", "Yesterdays", followed by Broadway and "Summertime" where Uggams truly does smoulder, "I Got Plenty of Nuthin", her signature Jerry Herman "If He Walked Into My Life" - no other singer does with this song what Uggams uncannily manages to do - and saluting Lena Horne, the scorching "Stormy Weather", to which Uggams attaches her own special dynamics.
What a sensational collection! Every tune explodes with Uggams' characteristic depth, soul and sheer joy for singing, which will now live on forever.
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Here's my review of the show in November, 2010:
through December 12
It's hard to find fault with Leslie Uggams
. The immensely talented lady can act and sing up a storm. She didn't soar as Lena Horne
in Stormy Weather
for naught. Now in Uptown Downtown,
her own musical journey, she excels once more, this time in the comfort of her own shoes.
The journey began uptown in Harlem and made several visits/stops downtown before the name Leslie Uggams
lit up a Broadway marquee. As a little girl she marveled at seeing Yul Brynner
and Gertrude Lawrence
in The King and I
and watching her aunt in the cast of Porgy and Bess
with Leontyne Price
, William Warfield
and Cab Calloway
. As a teen she won many a TV weekly contest on Name That Tune
and became a regular on Sing Along With Mitch
. The television career, also downtown, preceded the Broadway career. The TV miniseries Roots
was another milestone for Uggams as well as her own variety show The Leslie Uggams Show.
In 1968 she won a Tony Award for Hallelujah, Baby!
as Georgina, a role that was turned down by Lena Horne
. Ms Uggams' career came full circle two years ago playing Horne in Stormy Weather
chronicles all these events in the two-hour concert, telling warm and funny anecdotes with a huge concentration on the early Harlem years at the Apollo Theatre
, where she learned her craft from the likes of Louis Armstrong
, whom she affectionately called Pops, Ella Fitzgerald
and the Queen of the Blues Dinah Washington
. What is ultimately missing from the stories are her parents and intimate family and the Broadway years following Hallelujah, Baby!
Song highlights include: Gershwin's "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York", "Them There Eyes", "Up a Lazy River", "Sunny Side of the Street", Fitzgerald's oh so famous & catchy "A Tisket, a Tasket", "Up On the Roof" a tribute to The Drifters, who like many groups appeared regularly at the Apollo, and "Good Morning Heartache", written by Irving Drake
, who also composed Uggams' second Broadway show Her First Roman
She closes the first half with "A Train" and opens the second with "Love" another Lena Horne
song from Ziegfeld Follies.
Also outstanding in Act II are a medley "Yesterday"/"Yesterdays", "I Got Plenty of Nothin'", "Summertime", her signature Jerry Herman
song from Mame
"If He Walked Into My Life", "Stormy Weather" and as encore "The Man I Love", closing, as she opens, with a Gershwin number.
Praise to director Michael Bush for his concept, expansion and wonderful execution of the show and to Uggams' eight-piece orchestra, all superb musicians: musical director at the piano Don Rebic; on guitar Andrew Synowiec; on bass Joel Hamilton; on drums Gordon Peeke; on synth David Witham; on trombone Charlie Morillas; on trumpet John Fumo and on woodwinds Sal Lozano.
Uggams has a divine vocal instrument. She can sing a soft quiet ballad in almost a whisper and then belt out the next song to the rear balcony. She's also a singer who really lives her material; a good actress, she digs deeply into what each song says and then shares that with her audience. She's pure bliss! If you love Leslie Uggams, you will love Uptown Downtown. While waiting for Stormy Weather to get to Broadway, she may just want to consider bringing in UTDT. It's a winner, will please her many fans and is a terribly fine evening of theatre not to be missed. Brava, brava, brava!