Three Mo' Tenors October 7, 2006
Three Mo' Tenors: Mo' Than Good at a Cerritos
By Glen Creason
It's nice to be able to rave at full throttle when describing shows at the Performing Arts Center and Saturday's reprise of the “Three Mo' Tenors” may well exhaust the superlative keys on the word processor. While the concept of this musical review was originally conceived to play off of the Original ‘Three Tenors’ of Opera this show has taken on a life of its own. No Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras are here but Phumizile Sojola, Duane A. Moody and James N. Berger Jr. are more than capable of hitting the high notes and are far more versatile than the Italian superstars. This is a meticulously rehearsed and perfectly performed evening of eclectic song drawn from the rich vault of Popular and Classical music, particularly from the grand African-American influence on the American musical culture. This time through, the arias were only used as an appetizer but the main course was delicious visually, spiritually and especially acoustically.
Each artist excels in certain areas but all stood even on a stage that emphasized the songs and not the setting. A jocular "La Donna E Mobile" provided a link to the Three Tenors but the Three Mo' Tenors took it with tongue in cheek and tossed in showmanship that continued throughout. "Recondita Armonia" from Tosca and "De Miei Bollenti Spiriti" from La Traviata pretty much concluded the grand opera portion but each were done quite professionally with vocal power up to any tenor on the Operatic stage. Samuel Barber's challenging "I Hear an Army" was a revelation with an edge as done by James N. Berger. The remainder of the show drew from a deep well of song, covering traditions are varied as Rhythm and Blues, Broadway musicals, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Spirituals, Gospel and even a delightful chunk of Hip Hop. The performances were so good you could take slices from any portion and build an impressive show just from that genre.
"Let the Good Times Roll" featured harmony so tight it came to the audience as one rhythmic voice and the Sojola-Berger duet on "Bring Him Home" from Las Miserables built into an emotional crest further climbed by the towering "Make Them Hear You," a signature tune by the trio. A true sign of the variety was the potent high C's of the Broadway gem "Rain" followed by a dead-on-perfect recreation of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” complete with zoot suits and full audience “hidey-hidey-hidey ho’s!”
The second half of the show was even more casual but even more intense while saluting Ray Charles in triplicate: “Don’t Set Me Free,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and a sweet as peach cobbler “Georgia on My Mind.” There was also stalwart Blues singing and an enthusiastically received foray into soul which sent a crackle of electricity through the charged up crowd including Marvin Gaye’s sensual “Let’s Get It On,” the ageless marvel “My Girl” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The beauty of this show is the high-quality vocal abilities of the Three Mo’ which exhibit amazing range in every genre, getting to notes most singers won’t or can’t reach. Case in point was the tour de force reading of the old spiritual “I Don’t Feel No-Ways Tired” that followed on the heels of a Hip Hop jamboree marked by tight dance steps and self-effacing clowning during songs by Robert Kelly and Alicia Keys. They saved the best for last and finished with Gospel, lifting up an entire hall in unison to “Let the Praise Begin,” “It’s Time to Be Blessed” and the fitting finish of the reprise of “Make Them Hear You.”