Statler’s Falls In Love With Michael Hughes

On Wednesday March 4th, 2009 at Statler’s Piano Lounge Jenni Burke introduced Michael Hughes and his Cabaret How Long Has This Been Going On by saying, “to know him is to love him,” and that night, as soon as he started to sing his first song, I watched an entire packed room instantly fall in love with him.
Everything about Michael Hughes is dreamy.
Hughes is one of Toronto most promising young performers. It is so apparent to anyone who has the pleasure of seeing him perform that he is on the cusp of something gigantic. Early in the evening he sang “What Do I Need With Love” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, and it was a rendition that blew Gavin Creel’s out of the water. His voice is unbelievably beautiful and he infuses each song with such richness and texture.
His first guest was Lindsey Frazier, with whom he sang “Somethin’ Stupid (Like I Love You),” which was particularly tender and suited both their voices nicely. Hughes’ entire performance harkened back to the heyday of such singers as Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, while still having the momentum and gusto to root him firmly in the contemporary.
There are some musical theatre songs that are so iconic that they can become limp with overuse and turn to mashed potato in the brain. For me, “Maria” from West Side Story is one such song. Or, at least it was until I heard Michael Hughes’ rendition. I have never heard that song sung so gorgeously, so passionately and so full of life. It was entirely original and so poignant. In a week I am going to see West Side Story on Broadway and I will bet that the “Maria” I hear there won’t hold a candle to the one sung on Wednesday at Statler’s. He left the entire audience breathless. I have never heard Statler’s Piano Lounge so quiet. Everyone sat completely enchanted by him and fixed on his amazing, warm smile.
Hughes’ second guest was the incomparable Sara Farb, and watching the two of them sing together was a fusing of talent and skill. It was truly a privilege to watch their combined power resonate throughout the room. They sang “I Don’t Do Sadness/ Blue Wind” from Spring Awakening, which attested clearly to the fact that we have true musical theatre stars here in Toronto and that there is no need for us to import talent from the United States or anywhere else. I always look forward to having visiting artists come to Toronto (or to anywhere in Canada) and I think we are lucky to have National Touring Companies (like that of Spring Awakening) coming in to perform for us, but I do not think that this should occur at the expense of our indigenous artists. We need to create more musical theatre in Toronto and invest in the futures of those like Hughes and Farb who overflow with potential and capability. Producing musicals that showcase the talents of many different performers, singing in harmony with one another, working together and learning from each other somewhere in Toronto, should not be a pipedream. Farb and Hughes also performed an outstanding rendition of “Falling Slowly” from the film Once. Kapow.
Michael Hughes recently released his debut self-titled album and it is currently available on iTunes. I have been listening to it incessantly. It is one of the best CDs I have ever heard, and I am constantly astonished that such a gorgeous, sophisticated, soulful voice belongs to someone so young and who hasn’t yet been launched to superstardom. He sang four songs from his album with his amazing band (Andy Ballantyne (Saxophone), Steve Lucas (Bass) and Alan Poaps (Piano)) and they must be heard to be believed. He has an especially gorgeous rendition of “Singing in the Rain,” and also sang “Kissing A Fool,” and the lovely “Until Dawn,” which was written especially for him by Poaps and Shawn Daudlin. The last song, however, “Where Did I Go Wrong” proved the ultimate showstopper. His voice moves from a dreamy, smooth baritone to the sweetest, purest falsetto that soars and blankets the entire room and everyone in it, utterly seamlessly. It’s magical. It’s spellbinding. I’m sure every single person who attended the Statler’s show left completely in love with Michael Hughes.

I strongly urge you to download Michael Hughes on iTunes. Right now. You won’t be disappointed. Also, if you would like another chance to see him perform live, you should come to Sing Out, Louise on Monday, March 9th, 2009 at 8pm. It is a fundraiser for Buddies In Bad Times Theatre Company. Tickets are $25.00 and Michael Hughes is one of twelve of Canada’s biggest musical theatre stars who will be performing. It is an event not to be missed! Call 416 975-8555 for tickets for visit Buddies In Bad Times’ box office at 12 Alexander Street, Toronto, Ontario.

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