Broadway tunes from singers Jason Danieley and Karen Ziemba make for exhilarating concert


Jerry Campbell | Special to the Gazette:

New York singers Jason Danieley and Karen Ziemba perform at Chenery Auditorium as part of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.

KALAMAZOO — Broadway came to Chenery Auditorium Saturday night, with New York singers Jason Danieley and Karen Ziemba here for the 2010 Gilmore Festival. Jazz pianist and arranger Tedd Firth accompanied — although collaborated is more accurate.

An evening of singing had been planned for Danieley and his wife Marin Mazzie. When she recently was cast in a Broadway show, Tony-winning songstress Ziemba stepped in. Previous routines were reconceived to take advantage of new dynamics from the switch. The result was an engaging, highly satisfying program of standout Broadway tunes.

The performers concentrated on Broadway composers who also were professional pianists. Thus, Gershwin, Bernstein, Arlen, Rodgers and Kander provided the evening’s wonderful music. Some duets were programmed. But mostly the singers alternated numbers, allowing each to focus on music effectively showcasing his strengths.

Ziemba possesses a stunningly pure tone and timbre, with creamy-smooth phrasing. Flawless intonation and crystal-clear articulation meant no one in the large audience had to strain for lyrics. Opening with Gershwin’s charming “I Love a Piano,” Ziemba quickly won over the audience with graceful stage movement reflecting total involvement with the music.

Danieley’s “Stairway to Paradise” revealed a distinctive baritone timbre that easily soared into high tenor range. Lean and lithe, Danieley often prowled the region downstage. His rendition of “You Must Not Kick It Around” from “Pal Joey” included broad slapstick gestures, and his animated version of Kander and Ebb’s “Sara Lee” drew robust laughter. Both singers proved to be adept comedians, in their hilarious duet of Bernstein’s “Wrong Note Rag.”

Ziemba’s numbers all were beautifully performed. Favorites included “I’m As Corny as Kansas in August,” enhanced by occasional dance steps. “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” was thrilling — and effortless. Arlen’s “The Man Who Got Away” packed a wallop without going over the top.

Danieley’s flexible delivery drew full value from “Younger Than Springtime,” “Blues in the Night,” and especially Kander’s “I Miss the Music.” Thanks to his range of strengths, he readily morphed from bold challenger to vulnerable loser within a single song. His dynamic contrasts are unforgettable.

Iin every respect, it was a night of lovely, exhilarating song.