Rachel Weinberg has been a freelance theater critic around Chicago for more than three years. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Rachel worked for two years in digital marketing at Goodman Theatre and spent a season as a Marketing Apprentice for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City. You can read all of Rachel's reviews at RachelWeinbergReviews.com and find her on Twitter @RachelRWeinberg.
Pictured: (l-r) Ryan Hobbs, Jim DeSelm, Dan Kristen, Linda Madonia, Evan Tyrone Martin. Photo by Brett A. Beiner.
Review: I LEFT MY HEART at Mercury Theater Chicago
By Rachel Weinberg
Mercury Theater’s I LEFT MY HEART: A SALUTE TO THE MUSIC OF TONY BENNETT incorporates an astounding number of songs into its 80-minute run time. These tuneful numbers will be recognized both by fans of Tony Bennett but also by those who enjoy the work of such accomplished composers as Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and more. Under the direction of Kevin Bellie and music direction of Linda Madonia, a four-piece band accompanies the music-filled evening (Madonia on piano, Ryan Hobbs on trumpet, Dan Kristin on bass, and Lindsay Williams on percussion). These musicians set the backdrop for a lovely, relaxing night of music at Mercury Theater.
I LEFT MY HEART employs an ensemble of three, who alternate lead vocals on the show’s many numbers while decked out in Rachel Boylan’s dapper costumes. Robert Hunt gives a fine performance and certainly makes an effort to express enthusiasm when delivering some of the awkwardly-incorporated tidbits about Bennett’s life and career (the revue was conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson). Certainly, these interludes are meant to give the performers a break from the marathon of songs, but they don’t fit naturally. Hunt tries his best to make them work. Jim DeSelm is certainly easy on the eyes and fun to watch, but he struggles with some of his musical notes. Evan Tyrone Martin rounds out the trio in the performance that surely wins the night. Martin seems born to sing Tony Bennett’s song catalogue, and he’s given many opportunities to showcase his astounding vocal range. He’s a swell dancer as well, as evidenced by his spirited work in “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” In these more upbeat numbers, the show’s choreography works, while in others it feels unnatural and forced.
While Martin owns every moment in which he takes the vocal lead, I LEFT MY HEART, on the whole, drags in a few places. The revue spends a significant amount of its run time in ballad land. And while that is certainly reflective of Tony Bennett’s musical career, it makes for a show that feels as though it could use an extra jolt of caffeine.
Ultimately I LEFT MY HEART makes for a charming and pleasant evening of music that will please Tony Bennett fans and that offers a comforting geniality in the middle of Chicago winter—particularly when Martin takes the microphone.