It was a very special show that George Bugatti, Karon Blackwell, and their band brought to the MCH last weekend.
Bugatti crooned and Blackwell belted out song after familiar song in the Friendship Club’s offering “The Wonderful Wizard of Song.”
The celebrated songs were composed by Harold Arlen, who collaborated with at least 16 different lyricists—Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Truman Capote, to name a few—to create some of the most memorable music of our time.
Bugatti and Blackwell wove the story of Arlen’s life through his music, singing “C’mon Get Happy,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and many others.
They were backed by musical director Steve Rawlins on piano, Steve Alianz on tenor sax, Jennifer Leitham on bass, and Jimmy Dejulio on drums. Harold Arlen rose from humble beginnings as an orthodox Jewish cantor’s son in Brooklyn, New York.
He started playing piano in a bordello, moving on to compose songs for Broadway shows and Hollywood movies, ultimately writing all the music we know and love from “The Wizard of Oz.”
His music included the favorites of Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Song," took the audience on a journey through a series of video vignettes, tracing Harold Arlen's career, moving through the Cotton Club era, the Great White Way, and to his Hollywood years.
Movie buffs and music lovers enjoyed inspired renditions of "Stormy Weather," "Paper Moon," "Accentuate the Positive," "Let's Fall in Love" and the much loved tunes from "The Wizard of Oz.” The audience enjoyed inside stories of how some of the world's most beloved songs were created, as well as rare behind-the-scenes footage from "The Wizard of Oz," taken by Harold Arlen himself.
Arlen wrote over 500 songs, and Bugatti and Blackwell poured out their hearts in about 20 of them.
Their rich, full voices soared through the ballroom, and the repartee between them delighted the crowd.
Blackwell dazzled in purple—hair, jumpsuit, and sparkly tops—and her animated performance was wonderful. Both vocalists were also excellent pianists, accompanying themselves on several songs.
Their duets showed off their terrific vocal ranges, and their harmonies on “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby,” and “Come Rain or Come Shine” were fabulous.
But it was the music from “The Wizard of Oz” that thrilled the audience most.
Their duet of ”Over the Rainbow,” was gorgeous. That song, which “almost never was in the movie” was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest song in movie history, and the number one song of the 20th century.
The Friendship Club celebrated the anniversaries of Don and Marsh Maraska (59 years), Harris and Carol Howard (60 years), Lyle and Karen Crotteau, Carl and Mickey Hoeberling (63 years), Richard and Rosemary Rawson (69 years), and Harv and Virginia Strid (74 years).