Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Joan Morris and William Bolcom

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William Bolcom is one of the privileged members of the American music establishment, with a Pulitzer Prize under his belt and plenty of commissions in his crowded calendar (especially after the succes d'estime of his opera McTeague, which was premiered by the Lyric last fall). Joan Morris, his wife, is a gifted mezzo-soprano with an engagingly brassy personality. Together, as learned connoisseurs and ace promoters of American songs, the couple is ready to join the company of Astaire-Rogers, Tracy-Hepburn, and other celebrated teams of showbiz. In performance Morris croons and Bolcom accompanies, adroitly evoking various stages of Americana--from Civil War simplicity to Broadway glitz and from Tin Pan Alley to the Catskills--with a beguiling air of authenticity and nostalgia. (Morris, in fact, teaches cabaret singing at the University of Michigan, where Bolcom is the resident composer.) This concert, titled "The American Songbook," is a typical lengthy and entertaining medley of greatest hits by the Gershwins (George and Ira), Porter, Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Sondheim, and Bolcom himself. Usually one can expect "On the Banks of the Wabash," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Bewitched," "Jeepers Creepers," and other sentimental favorites. Part of the fun is in guessing the titles of bygone songs, served up with relish by Morris. Sunday, 3 PM, Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.; 752-2770.

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