REVIEW: The Seth Concert Series With Karen Olivo

Overcoming massive technical problems, this latest concert in the series is as richly diverse musically as well as being entertaining from start to finish.

From In the Heights to West Side Story and more recently Moulin Rouge, Karen Olivo has certainly starred in many of the most beloved musicals on Broadway – but as this concert reveals she is also someone who has had confidence issues and is very modest about her own talent.

This is evident by the story that she tells when being involved with West Side Story to play Anita – a role which she initially didn’t want to play as she was worried about her capability particularly with regards to the dancing. Thankfully, with the help of Arthur Laurents she remained with the production.

But she is also refreshingly frank and honest about how she feels about ‘belting’ songs, feeling that it isn’t entirely necessary. To prove this, there was then a haunting performance of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ – the softer approach here providing a real strong emotional connection than other versions I have heard.

As with previous concerts, the music selection really captures the full scope of Olivo’s career to date as well as some really lovely individual choices that compliment the showtunes well.

In particular, there is a really gorgeous jazzy rendition of ‘How Long Has This Been Going On?’ by the Gershwins that really enhanced the smokiness of Olivo’s vocals that are consistently expressive to the point that you can see how submerged she is in the music and character. Accompanied by Rudetsky’s classy piano playing it is a real highlight of the concert.

Other songs such as ‘Take Me Or Leave Me’ and ‘How Can People Have No Feelings?’ captured the depth and range of Olivo’s vocals as well as the amazing amount of control that she has over them to offer really unique interpretations. She handles each song with great personality, captured through her rendition of ‘You Go to My Head’ that is delightfully playful and a sheer joy to listen to.

The way in which both Karen Olivo and Seth Rudetsky discuss both the shows and the music with great intelligence and understanding is completely fascinating to listen to. This was evident when they were discussing in detail the connotations of ‘Gravity’ written by Sara Bareilles as an extra song for the musical Rent.

As always, this was a fascinating and entertaining concert that provided great insight into Karen Olivo’s career and life – completed with great style and grace with a duet of ‘ I Know Him So Well’ with her daughter that was really touching to listen to.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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