On Friday, an Eisenhower Auditorium audience was treated to a night of some of the most iconic songs in Broadway history as sung by one of Broadway’s most iconic voices — Brian Stokes Mitchell.
The Tony Award winner was accompanied only by a piano — played by the brilliantly talented Ted Firth —and his warm, relaxed presence gave the impression that he could have been singing in your living room despite the expansive performance space. Mitchell performed a list of songs in his rich, unmistakable baritone voice, completely embodying every musical character he took on. Songs took the audience on a journey to 1800s-era France, early 1900s Russia in the early 1900s and everywhere in between.
The night began with Mitchell immediately pulling the audience into his world with a spellbinding rendition of the classic song “Feeling Good,” from the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd.” “You feeling good?” he asked the audience, which was met with a wave of applause. “I just can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” he added. Judging by the reaction of the audience, the feeling was mutual.
By this point, Mitchell already had everyone in the audience sitting in the palm of his hand, but he made the point to formally invite the audience to join him on his musical journey by saying, “Come and enter into my imagination.” That is what the entire night felt like — a trip into the talented creative mind of one of Broadway’s favorite leading men I was completely immersed in an entirely differently world with every song.
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Mitchell sang all of the songs off his successful album “Simply Broadway,” which included showstoppers such as “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha,” “Stars” from “Les Miserables,” and “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Every song brought a fresh, new character out of Mitchell, each one so different from the one before that it was almost impossible to wrap your mind around the fact that there was only one man performing.
In addition to enchanting the audience with his voice, Mitchell created a comfortable bond with everyone in attendance by taking time in between his songs to talk about his album, including the importance of art and to his 20th wedding anniversary.
“There’s a love going on between us,” he said..
Each song brought with it an overwhelmingly positive response, but the biggest reaction of the night came when the opening notes of the classic song “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific” began to play, spurring a collective “Ooh” from the audience.
Mitchell ended the night with a song that he described to be “perfect”; Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” which left more than a few people dabbing at their eyes. As the concert ended and he left the stage, there was no doubt that after almost two hours of classic songs, amazing talent and iconic roles, Mitchell had made the audience’s world just a little bit more wonderful.