Baritones UnBound: Celebrating the UnCommon Voice of the Common Man
ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage
Conceived by Marc Kudisch
Created by MarcKudisch with Merwin Foard, Jeff Mattsey and Timothy Splain
Performed by Marc Kudisch, Jeff Mattsey, Ben Davis, accompanied by Timothy Splain on piano
Music Direction by Timothy Splain
Directed by David Dower
Production Design by Alexander V. Nichols
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston) I’m not going to go on about how famous the three baritones in Baritones Unbound are. I’m not going to compare this production to The Three Tenors. These baritones and those tenors have different interests. This production isn’t just about the glorious voices of Marc Kudisch, Jeff Mattsey and Ben Davis (and they do sound seraphic). It is a living history of the baritone in popular music as they worked and performed through the ages. It’s also a boys night at the Paramount Center (complete with Act 2 “man cave”).
The baritone voice is the most common but least researched of the male voices. For example: the castrati have millions of pages devoted to their creation and beauty. The baritone voice has a simple definition; it is the most common voice of male (naturally born) singers with a range between the bass and tenor. The timbre has characteristics of both voices. Kudisch offers in these performances that the definition should include the baritone’s personality and propensity for acting. Like the soubrette, they get to behave in ways cunning and witty whereas the tenor and bass do not (traditionally).
The men are unmic-ed. They don’t need amplification; their voices (and bodies) are strong enough without technological advances.
This production covers the baritone history starting with Gregorian chant through opera, into musical theatre on to crooners such as Bing Crosby and finishing with rock music. The gentlemen perform a comprehensive, versatile list of selections that will appeal to anyone who enjoys music. Some of the song selections are questionable, such as “Old Man River.” Bing Crosby may have performed this one in the 1920’s to great acclaim but he also performed in blackface. Just because Bing got to be racist all over the place without repercussion doesn’t mean these gentlemen do too.
Regardless, the anecdotes will titillate the historians in the audience. The performances will satisfy music lovers. Or, if you don’t enjoy music but do enjoy handsome men, our three baritones can convince you with their dreamy rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” that baritones are worthy of more interest.