Tricia Tarantino of The TarantinosNYC had comp tickets for The Quentin Tarantino Songbook, Vol. 1: Music from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown at BB Kings and asked me to join her. While waiting for Tricia at the box office I could see that a lot of the audience were on the list. During the show, when one of the singers was trying to get a more enthusiastic response from the audience, he chided us, “Come on! Half of you were on the comp list.”
We were seated a few minutes before the show started and it was halfway through the show before a waiter came over to us to take our drink and food order. That was after Tricia had gone to the bar twice to get someone to pay attention to us. We did have great seats – on the upper level, center table at the front – so we had a great view. The room was little too loud for me. The sound was great but I thought the volume could have come down a touch.
There was a full orchestra on stage. The Hateful Eight is led by arranger Adam B Levowitz, who also plays keyboards. The orchestra is from various Broadway shows and included Micah Burgess (electric and acoustic guitar/banjo), Brian Pareschi (trumpet) John Chudoba (trumpet), Taku Hirano (percussion), Donna Kelly (drums), Steve Lyon (saxophone), Josh Plotner (saxophone/flute) and Matt Scharfglass (bass). The singers are also Broadway performers – Scott Coulter (who also acted as emcee), Victoria Cook, Jessica Hendy, Blaine Krauss, and Mike Schwitter. The musicians were all very good and so were the singers except for some things.
There were two screens on either side of the stage and the show began with the opening scene from Pulp Fiction, where the Hateful Eight picked it up and went into “Miserlou.” One problem – Tricia leaned over to me and said, “He can’t double pick!” That is not a small problem when you’re playing “Miserlou.” Then the orchestra performed “Jungle Boogie” and when the chanting of “jungle boogie” started, Tricia again leaned over and said, “No one is singing.” So not sure where that was coming from. For “Hooked on a Feeling” the orchestra did chant the “ooga chaga” before Coulter sang. And that’s when I heard the other problem. Cabaret and Broadway singers can’t usually perform pop or soul songs very well (there are always exceptions). Krauss did a good job with “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” leading into “Let’s Stay Together” but there was still too much Broadway to his soul. Hendy had a very strong voice but no mic technique. Whether she was loud or soft she was always at the same distance from the mic. Cook had a really pretty voice and Schwitter seemed a bit timid. Since all the singers are also actors they could convey the meaning of the song in various ways. For one song, Krauss brought a woman up on stage and sang to her and gave her roses. He also gave roses to some of the women near the front of the stage.
The show was in five acts. Each act took a different subject – like violence or love – and grouped the songs accordingly. The screens played scenes from the movies, sometimes before they performed the song and sometimes during. Every song was identified on screen by name, artist, and movie.
The one original song was “La Violence Emblamatique in Five Parts” by Levowitz. Of course, they played “C’est La Vie” with John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing, “Stuck in the Middle with You” with Michael Madsen dancing, and “Across 110th Street.” But we also heard a lot of songs from those three movies that you rarely hear in a Tarantino tribute. And that’s what made it such a fun evening.
It ended with the final scene from Pulp Fiction as everyone walked out.
By Carene Lydia Lopez