By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
July 15, 2012
Unquestionably, actor, singer and songwriter Tom Wopat has certainly come a long way since his stint as Luke Duke in the “Dukes of Hazzard” television show. And he convincingly demonstrated as much during his show, “Love Swings,” Friday at Cabaret at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.
A multifaceted performer, Wopat has continued to enjoy a prolific career on Broadway, in films, on television, in concerts and clubs and as a recording artist with five albums to his credit. He is also a two-time Tony Award nominee, for “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1999 and “A Catered Affair” in 2008.
Accompanying Wopat in his Cabaret show were two world-class musicians. One was Jason Sherbundy, with whom he worked with on Broadway in “Catch Me If You Can” in 2011. Sherbundy has also been appearing regularly as the rehearsal pianist on the hit NBC show, “Smash.” The other was bass player David Finck, who also produced Wopat’s most recent album, “Consider It Swung,” and a new one they are currently working on. Finck performed recently at the Cabaret with Linda Eder. Wopat’s respect for these musicians was obvious considering that he acknowledged them numerous times during his show.
Wopat exuded hipster-cool yet leading-man charisma as he showcased his smooth-as-silk baritone voice in an appealing program that included blues, jazz, Broadway, standards, pops and original tunes. Expressive with his hands and possessing a natural ease and playfulness, and a “what you see is what you get” attitude, he downplayed his celebrity and spoke proudly yet humbly about his career achievements, as he interacted humorously with a responsive and appreciative Crystal Room audience.
Act 1 of Wopat’s show established not only his versatile vocal artistry but also his great sensitivity in songs such as George Gershwin’s “But Not for Me,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and the jazzy “Twisted,” a vocalese song by Annie Ross. Displaying his fine talent as a musician, Wopat played guitar in his own plaintive “Thailand Seas” and during his tribute to Bruce Springsteen in the Boss’ “Meeting Across the River.”
Further demonstrating his ability to traverse all musical genres, Wopat showed an uncanny knack for capturing the authenticity of the blues as he sang Delbert McClinton’s “Maybe Someday Baby,” and then showed his affinity for his Broadway roots in “A New Town Is a Blue Town” from “Pajama Game” and “Jet Song” from “West Side Story.”
Following an intermission, finger-snapping jazz renditions of “Cool” from “West Side Story” and Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” began Wopat’s second set, which was as delectably diverse, if not more so, than the first. Singing without a mic, Wopat was striking as he deeply connected with the audience during Jimmy Webb’s dramatic “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress.”
Making fun of himself (he’s been married three times and has five children), Wopat also sang Louis Armstrong’s “Making Whoopee.” Providing a clue as to why his formidable singing chops put him on Broadway, he belted “Fifty Checks” from “Catch Me If You Can.”
Proving to be somewhat of a macho kind of guy — Wopat not only covered an iconic song done to death by female singers but made it his own at the same time. His rendition of “Over The Rainbow,” an arrangement set to a Latin beat, was absolutely riveting, as was his closing number, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” by Billie Holliday, made even more special by Finck’s tremendous bass solo.
Ending the evening on a reflective note, Wopat sang Chicago’s “On the Last Night of the Year’ as his encore.
For tickets and information about upcoming Cabaret at the Columbia performances, call (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.
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