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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013

Tony Bennett In Triplicate

Milwaukee Rep’s tribute to a great singer

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The Milwaukee Repertory Theater opens its cabaret season with a crisp, classy tribute to a great American singer, the still-performing Tony Bennett. What the production lacks in the actual presence of Bennett it more than makes up for in providing something Bennett himself would be incapable of delivering: three distinct voices. Anchored by the stylish musical direction of pianist Richard Carsey, three charismatic tenors work their way through more than two dozen songs popularized by Bennett.

Andrew McMath is Tenor #1—an attractive young man who plays to the visceral appeal of the crooner, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The strength of that charm feeds the production in sheer gravity. In lighter moments, McMath has a vibrancy that fills a third of the stage quite well. He slides along gracefully on his own but is at his best in three-part harmony.

Rob Tucker plays to the stylish end of Bennett as Tenor #2. He’s got a brilliant moment with a dazzling pulse in “Crazy Rhythm.” Shades of a modern Dooley Wilson are distinctly felt in his performance of “As Time Goes By.” As sparklingly sharp as he is in solo moments, Tucker is at his best when working simultaneously with the other two.

Eric Jon Mahlum completes the trio as Tenor #3—a talent who plays well to the thoughtful end of Bennett in countless moments. Something of a unifying force between the other two, Mahlum aids in bringing together the group in clever stagings of unforgettable tunes like “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and a slickly sharp “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

The Milwaukee Rep’s production I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett runs through Oct. 20 at the Stackner Cabaret. For tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukeerep.com.
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