The Actors Fund's concert series took an interesting twist Monday, uniting 10 singers with the musical theater work of a largely unknown composer, Ron Abel. Though the material is largely unfamiliar, his songs have some meat on their bones, and most of the singers relished the chance to sink their teeth into them. Concert proved to be an enjoyable way to get the word out about a nonprofit, a composer and several fine singers.

The Actors Fund’s concert series took an interesting twist Monday, uniting 10 singers with the musical theater work of a largely unknown composer, Ron Abel. Though the material is largely unfamiliar, his songs have some meat on their bones, and most of the singers relished the chance to sink their teeth into them. Concert proved to be an enjoyable way to get the word out about a nonprofit, a composer and several fine singers.

Abel has won awards for his shows, and Monday announced that Whoopi Goldberg was joining the producing team of a “Bricktop” project in development, but he keeps the lights on through arranging, conducting and orchestrating work. Lucie Arnaz, Linda Purl and Valarie Pettiford have had long-running relationships with Abel, and it was evident in their confident perfs.

The stunner of the night came from Wayne Moore, a cabaret-theater multihyphenate who took control of two songs Abel wrote for an aborted attempt at the musicalization of “Marty.” Moore, 59, has the build and the hang-dog look the part would require; his tenor, however, was a story unto itself. Moore used his rich and accurate vocal powers to immediately convey vulnerability, frustration and pathos in a duet and a solo number. Combination of singer and song was nearly magical.

Abel is very much a conventional composer, adhering to the models of Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz, whose musical “Wicked” is playing inside the theater. He dabbles in the blues but is generally a straightforward melody-oriented showtune writer. He has used several lyricists, most commonly Chuck Steffan, and the tunes selected Monday were largely internal monologues save for Joely Fisher’s complaint number about the best men being gay.

Saving Loretta Devine and the “Bricktop” numbers for last put a spotlight on Abel’s comfort level in a blues-based showtune idiom. One number, “Queen of the Night,” hinted at Horace Silver’s earthy yet smooth “Senor Blues.” More than the others, the “Bricktop” songs  are attempting to be bigger, stronger and achieve more; Devine navigated them with precision.

Musical Mondays

Pantages Theater lobby; 200 seats; $125

Production

Presented by the Actors Fund, John Bowab and Martin Wiviott. Reviewed March 24, 2008.

Cast

Performers: Lucie Arnaz, Loretta Devine, Joely Fisher, Joey Gian, Marsha Kramer, Wayne Moore, Valarie Pettiford, Linda Purl, Giselle Wolf.
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