Fred Astaire’s Hollywood screen test concluded that he couldn’t sing, but America’s finest songwriters disagreed. Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, among others, created some of their best work for Astaire, who not only danced their songs but also sang them with consummate style.
As part of the annual “The Song Is You!” concert and cabaret series, The Musical Theater Project (TMTP) presents, “Fascinating Rhythms: Fred Astaire and American Song Part 1,” on Sunday, March 4, at 4 p.m. at Lakeland Community College, 7700 Clocktower Drive, 44094. Tickets are $18 adults, $15 seniors, and $10 students. Call 440-525-7133 to purchase in advance; tickets will also be available at the door.
“Part 2” of the special concert series takes place on Sunday, March 18, at 3 p.m. at the Cuyahoga County Community College Metropolitan Main Stage Theater, 2900 Community College Ave., in Cleveland. For tickets to “Part 2” on Mar. 18 at Tri-C Metropolitan Main Stage Theater, call 216-987-4444 or visit tricpresents.com. All tickets are $20 reserved seating.
The two concerts can be enjoyed either separately or as a pair.
Hosted by TMTP’s artistic director Bill Rudman and jazz pianist Joe Hunter, “Fascinating Rhythms” covers Astaire’s iconic career from vaudeville and Broadway in the 1920s through his many hit films co-starring Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse and, as late as 1968, Petula Clark.
The concerts include dozens of still photos and selected film clips, but the songs themselves take center stage in performances by Cleveland’s Vince Mastro, who considers Astaire an idol.
“No singer introduced more first-rate American songs than Fred Astaire,” said Mastro. “I couldn’t be luckier, because over two weeks I get to do ‘S’Wonderful,’ ‘Night and Day,’ ‘Cheek to Cheek,’ ‘A Foggy Day,’ ‘Steppin Out With My Baby,’ ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – the list goes on and on. I feel as though I’m performing most of the Great American Songbook!”
“With every song Astaire interpreted, it’s like there were electric sparks shooting out of his body. For me that’s inspirational,” Mastro said.
Joe Hunter (Piano, Co-host) has been playing piano professionally since 1979, and his versatility has garnered him work with an array of artists. In 1981, he studied in Rio De Janeiro at the Universidade Gamma Filho, which fueled his passion for Brazilian music. From 1992-1997 he served on the Conservatory of Music faculty at Capitol University in Columbus. Hunter has performed with many national artists including Conti Condoli, Tito Puente and Scott Hamilton. He serves on the faculty of Tri-C’s Jazz Studies Program and is a popular performer throughout the Cleveland area. Hunter is also a featured player with Ernie Krivda’s Fat Tuesday Big Band and has released two CDs with bass player Dallas Coffey: “From This Moment On” and “East of the Sun.” He has dedicated much of the past decade to exploring the Great American Songbook.
Vince Mastro (Vocalist) has led a career in popular music spanning more than 50 years. A Cleveland native, he won a Decca Records contract that took him to New York City in the 1950s, where he studied harmony and theory at the Juilliard School and played clubs such as Gilly’s, the Copa and the Metropol. It was a particularly exciting time to be in Manhattan, and his friends included Lenny Bruce, Pat Cooper and Theresa Brewer (with whom he performed). For Decca he recorded “Crazy River” and “Forever Is Always,” along with eight other songs; his bestseller was “Searching for Someone to Love” on the Roulette label. Today he continues to sing, play the keyboard and record – most recently the CD “As Time Goes By” in partnership with pianist Dr. Joe Howard.
Bill Rudman (Writer, Co-host) is an educator, a broadcaster and the director of The Musical Theater Project (see below), whose radio program “Footlight Parade” is heard locally on WCLV 104.9 FM, and nationally on SiriusXM Satellite Radio (under the title “On the Aisle”) and 100 public stations. Rudman has produced recordings focusing on classic American song and featuring such vocalists as Peggy Lee and Maxine Sullivan. In 2000, he became the first recipient of the Robert Bergman Award, given by the Cleveland Arts Prize, for his work in arts education and community outreach. Recent appearances include the Stratford (Ontario) Festival, the Paley Center for Media (New York City) and NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross.
WKHR 91.5 is the lead media sponsor for the concerts. “The Song Is You!” receives additional support from Robert and Jean Conrad, Susan Kohn and Mike Kohn, The Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Ohio Arts Council and WCLV 104.9 FM.
About The Theater Music Project The Musical Theater Project (TMTP) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 to produces concerts, in-school residency programs, radio programming and recordings that foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of a uniquely American art form.