Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 1, 2020

REVIEW/PREVIEW: Goodspeed Musicals, Shakin' The Blues Away! A Virtual Gala Concert

Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam, CT
through November 7, 2020, virtually
by R.E. Smith

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and so it is that singers gotta sing and dancers have to dance and audiences gotta support them all. Welcome to our current world of the virtual arts and a finely produced concert to support Goodspeed Musicals.

“Shakin' the Blues Away: A Virtual Gala Concert for Goodspeed” is available to watch on-line in exchange for a monetary donation that will be matched dollar for dollar by the Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts. You’re given a link to watch the video as many times as you like until November 7, 2020. At 50 minutes, it is easily re-watchable due to the uplifting playlist and memorable performances.
The song choices are varied in style and era, but each one nicely connects to the reality of being a “remote viewer.” Some speak of hope, or of missing something, or of the joy of performing. One song, from the lesser known “When Pigs Fly” (1996), was especially appropriate, with lines such as “Problems with no answers, hang on like some chronic cough, And every day some brand-new issue, rears its head to piss you off.” That particular piece was delivered in an intimate setting by Klea Blackhurst, just her voice and simple accompaniment proving you don’t need complicated sets or dozens of background dancers to create moving musical moments at the Goodspeed.
The audio mix of all the performances is well engineered, emphasizing the outstanding vocals and stripped-down arrangements that highlight these stellar voices. Due to the editing and location changes involved, the performances were not “live” in the sense of “happening now” and but there is clearly no “audio magic” being applied. . .these are simply very talented performers whose skill is obvious. The intimate format could have proven unforgiving, so the performances must be, and are, flawless.
Rashida Scott opens the proceeding with the title song, using the foyer of the Opera House as her stage, and it really is just nice to see the old familiar haunt again as she dances her blues away up and down the grand staircase. Gizel JimĂ©nez’s performance of “Applause, Applause” wisely takes advantage of her expressive face and physicality, highlighted by outstanding lighting design by Will Johnson playing across the background. Nicholas Ward’s powerful rendition of “The Impossible Dream” wisely lets the performer and song stand on their own, using a drone camera to give us a heavenly view of the iconic structure. Being the Goodspeed, we’re even treated to some joyful tap dancing by the duo of Bryan Thomas Hunt and Kelly Sheehan.
The one difference between watching the original livestream that premiered on October 29, 2020 versus the replay is that you don’t get the benefit of commentary from Goodspeed staff, offering bits of trivia and personalized shout-outs to patrons. You also miss such “in the lobby at intermission” comments like “he is the dreamiest of the Broadway dreamboats!”
Goodspeed has a number of on-line offerings available for theatre-starved patrons, such as their “In the (Home) Office Show”, highlighting behind the scenes personnel and stories or “Staff Picks” featuring clips from various shows over the years. All are worth a look, but the Gala is only available until November 7, 2020 and it well worth the time and donation to experience this memorable, one of a kind experience.