Tony Yazbeck Returns to the Berkshires
Have you ever enjoyed a quiet evening with friends, sitting around the living room, someone slides over to the piano and begins to play. Soon someone else comes over to the piano and begins to sing. One thing leads to the next, and if you are a group of theater people, dancing begins, and then the story telling. Such was what the evening this past Saturday at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield felt like as Tony Yazbeck took the black stage with his accompanist and musical director of ten plus years Jerry Korman.
Berkshire Theatre Group brought Yazbeck back to the Berkshires to start their summer season. It was an intimate, personal evening that Broadway song and dance man Yasbeck took us on. An exploration of his life, personal and professional through music, musings and tap. The evening opened with a melody of “Let There Be Love” and and “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from ‘Oklahoma,’ we ventured to ‘West Side Story,’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ‘Gypsy’ as been the touch stone in Yazbeck’s career starting at age 11 on Broadway as a newsboy in the Tyne Daly revival. He returned to the more mature role of Tulsa in Patti LuPone’s revival where his dance expertise was highlighted in the show-stopping “All I Need Now is The Girl.”
For ninety or so minutes, Tony shared stories of his family, his youth, his struggles and successes. All of these were interwoven with amazing tap dance routines, and song. His voice is strong, he offers some very interesting if atypical arrangements from the Broadway songbook. He treated the enthusiastic audience to music from ‘Crazy For You,’ of course his Tony nominated role in ‘On The Town’ and some less likely places. His soulful “New York State of Mind,” The Beatles’ “Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night” brought the audience to a hushed silence.
He was not without the gratitude of letting the audience know that his star making role in ‘On The Town’ began just down the street at Barrington Stage before it took him to Broadway. Perhaps the most impactful pieces of the evening were the beautiful stirring rendition of “Moon River” and the song he says has brought him to tears since he was five years old simply by hearing the opening notes, Judy Collins’ “Both Sides Now.”
Recovering from COVID by just a few weeks, you could tell, as the evening wore on, his stamina was waning, but the consummate professional never let it hold him back. At one point in the evening he and Korman had the audience call out a song key, major or minor, numbers, and music styles. With a mixture of Hip Hop and Swing in E Major, as Korman rifted on the ivories, Yazbeck did what he does best… improvised an amazing tap routine that seemed to go on for ever.
No doubt a strong singer and fine actor, where Tony Yazbeck is obviously most at home is when his feet are tapping out a melody on a stage. What pleasure to have spent an evening with him in his “home away from home.” The night was personal, warm, and mostly just plain entertaining and fun. If Yazbeck is back in the Berkshires, this summer whether in a staged production or one man concert, it is well worth the time to curl up in his living room and share an evening.