Written by Susan Hasho
Last Thursday night had a great band led by Ted Firth, Tom Wopat’s arranger/accompanist who was joined by Peter Grant (drums), Ed Howard (Bass), Brett Johnson (Trombone) and Bob Malach (Saxophone).
Wopat was encouraged 12 years ago to record a “Sinatra-ish record” and has subsequently, over time, made CDs and developed this nightclub act. Thursday night he was often the nightclub/lounge singer version of himself.
He led in with Devil May Care. And saying, “Let’s rock it” with cool, casual finger-snapping ease, he established his intention for the evening. He sang But Not for Me offhandedly with a great big band sound behind him. And the song Twisted (Joni Mitchell, “my analyst told me…”) was fun though it lacked the punch and speed it usually merits.
When he picked up his guitar to sing a song he wrote (Thailand Sea), his performance moved into much different territory. Joni Mitchell’s Two Grey Rooms, about the rediscovery of a former lover, was bluesy and intimate; and Bruce Springstein’s Meeting Across the River revealed a good deal of Wopat’s depth and artistry. He gave us a “Broadway twofer”—A New Town Is a Blue Town (Pajama Game) and Jet Song (West Side Story) which were both beautifully done.
Tom Wopat is an extremely gifted actor with a gorgeous, versatile singing voice. But he seemed such a contradiction in performance. He’s a first rate talent who seems to think of himself as second rate in some way. I would love to see him risk more in order to dazzle us—he could dazzle us.
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