David Burnham: Mostly Broadway

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 31, 2013

David Burnham
David Burnham  (Source:John Ganun)

How're you gonna keep 'em down on the farm once they've illuminated the stages of Broadway? Actor-singer David Burnham who has forged an acclaimed and prolific career in such shows as "Wicked," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and "The Light in the Piazza," enjoys sharing his heartfelt stories of a boy growing up in the sleepy rural berg of Fontana, California. He happened into a chorus class simply because woodshop was not available, and began crooning songs from "The Wizard of Oz" in the family barn. His life was never quite the same.

Exuding natural charm, an unpretentious air, and a refreshing humility, this irresistible performer captivated an SRO crowd on August 27 in his solo cabaret vehicle, David Burnham: Mostly Broadway at Rockwell Table and Stage supper club in Los Feliz. A repeat gig for this show will occur at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach in October.

Carpenter is the same venue where Burnham gave a knockout performance as reluctant gigolo Joe Gillis in Musical Theatre West's July revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Sunset Boulevard.' As part of his appealing interaction with the audience, Burnham gave a warm nod to his Sunset costar, Valerie Perri, who was in attendance.

He garnered a lot of laughs at one point by strolling through the crowd and serenading a love song to his junior-high school teacher, while her patient husband sat beside her.

His banter was alternately hilarious and touching, including fascinating career anecdotes, such as humorous tales of his various auditions and his inspiration by the late singing star John Raitt. He recalled the night he had a serendipitous meeting with the superstar's widow.

He also gave a poignant salute to his late mother, singing the haunting "Fly Away" in her honor. A delicious moment occurred when he showed us the "David" doll-a nifty piece of merchandising that came out when the animated film version of "The King and I" was released, featuring Burnham in a key role. This was accompanied by a lovely rendition of "I Have Dreamed" from this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Beyond the delightful banter, Burnham's soaring and resplendent tenor voice and his incomparable skill at performing a wide variety of songs is what audiences obviously came for, and the results were jubilant.

David Burnham garnered a lot of laughs at one point by strolling through the crowd and serenading a love song to his junior-high school teacher, while her patient husband sat beside her.

Fittingly starting the evening with the Judy Garland classic, "Get Happy," Burnham set a celebratory tone. In short order, he began offering highlights from his remarkable career with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Any Dream Will Do" and "Close Every Door" from "Joseph."

One of his funniest segments recalled the time he auditioned for the heartbreaking romantic musical "The Light in the Piazza." He said that he inappropriately chose to audition with "Maiden Breast" from "The Pirates of Penzance," interpreting it like a hip-swivelling John Travolta in "Grease." Yet, he admits, he surprisingly got the part anyway-indeed, his first big break.

He subsequently balanced this goofy moment with gorgeous renditions of Adam Guettel's "Love To Me" and "Il Mondo Era Vuoto" from "Piazza's" Tony-winning score. Burnham took another opportunity to honor his idol Raitt and to showcase his own booming voice in the evergreen "If I Loved You" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel."

Fans were of course, expecting some tunes from "Wicked" and Burnham eloquently obliged, with smashing takes on Stephen Schwartz' "Defying Gravity" "As Long As You're Mine" and "For Good, (which he performed as a duet with his superb music director/accompanist Mark Vogel). He crooned a fine number, "Proud Lady," from a little-known Schwartz musical, "The Baker's Wife." And he excelled in another memorable song from an infrequently revived show, "Feeling Good" from Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd."

Burnham graciously shared a second duet with Vogel, as the duo sparkled in the vintage folk ballad, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

He concluded the evening by offering a spectacular singalong opportunity with "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" from "Jersey Boys"-providing a welcome nod to Clint Eastwood's impending film version. Then came a splendid performance of "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific," and the popular Frank Sinatra standard, "That's Life."

Indeed, the show was mostly Broadway, but with a performer as musically gifted and uniquely charismatic at the helm, it was thankfully 100 percent Burnham.

"David Burnham: Mostly Broadway" was performed on August 27 at Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. For information or tickets for future Rockwell shows, call 800-838-3006, or visit www.rockwell-la. This show will be repeated at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach. Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. For tickets and information, call (562) 985-7000, or visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/921790.