Tony® Award winning “Kinky Boots” star Billy Porter sang at the Appel Room, formerly the Allen Room, at Rose Hall, on the Lincoln Center American Songbook series on January 28, assisted by a 12-piece orchestra, led from the piano by James Sampliner, and the Broadway Inspirational Voices gospel choir, under Michael McElroy’s direction, and the show, drawing on Porter’s Concord CD “Billy’s Back on Broadway;” Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s “Kinky Boots;” and Porter’s own compositions, amounted to no more no less than a love fest.
Beginning with songs from the CD, Porter paid tribute to great Broadway divas Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, and Barbra Streisand with an expansive “But the World Goes ’Round,” written for Minnelli by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and zesty “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” Merman’s song, from Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s “Gypsy,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” Streisand’s, from Styne and Bob Merrill’s “Funny Girl.”
Soon to be celebrating his 25th year of living in New York City, and having learned that “There are no time limits to your dreams,” Porter sang, at once moodily and optimistically, his and Brian Steckler’s “(What is) Time,” and saluting the 37 states where same sex marriage is legal, but dedicating the anthem to the 13 states where it isn’t yet, his, Music Director Sampliner’s, and Matt Zarley’s “(Love is) All That Matters,” rousingly singing—approximately—“What are they scared of/that our love is here to stay/that our kind of love/isn’t going to go away,” joined by four members of Broadway Inspirational Voices.
Porter and his backup singers gave us an inspirational pairing of Walter Marks’ “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” from “Golden Rainbow,” and made famous by Sammy Davis, Jr., and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” then left the stage to the quartet and orchestra and returned sporting Lola’s high red kinky boots for a pairing of Lauper’s “Sex Is in the Heel” and “Just Be (who you wanna be)” and a proud and contemplative “(I’m) Not My Father’s Son.” In Frank Loesser’s “Luck Be a Lady,” from “Guys and Dolls,” with keyboardist Jason Michael Webb adding grand organ-stop fanfares to the verse, Porter and company took us to church more than to the gambling hall and, hey, we happily went along with them! “My Favorite Things,” from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Sound of Music,” as a jazzy instrumental interlude, followed.
Sans kinky boots, Porter sang a fervent “Take the Moment,” a rarely heard hopeful ballad by Rodgers and Sondheim, from “Do I Hear a Waltz?,” included on the CD, but departed from it for the final numbers, Smokie Norful’s “Run Til I Finish,” a determined credo, also augmented with Webb’s organ-like fanfares, and with the entire Broadway Inspirational Voices choir, “Sunday,” the climax of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” for a truly grand finale. With KeKe Wyatt’s plea for “Peace on Earth” as his ardent encore, Porter quietly took his leave of us.
Coming up on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series are Steve Reich and Stephen Sondheim (January 31) and, in February, Lea DeLaria (5th), Megan Hilty (6th), Barbara Cook (28th), and so many more. Visit www.americansongbook.org
for more information.