After a weekend of previews and a (well-deserved) day off, the Time Stands Still company was back in rehearsal yesterday afternoon on the Mainstage, continuing to refine the production for evening preview performances headed towards Friday’s opening. But yesterday we also welcomed Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir—the first music rehearsal for that show, next up in the season, was underway in the rehearsal hall as Time Stands Still was rehearsing onstage. Music director Doug Levine and actor/singer Luke MacFarlane (best known for his role on ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, recently in the cast of the acclaimed New York revival of The Normal Heart) are clearly relishing the standards of the American songbook, as well as some lesser known but no less wonderful pieces, that playwright Keith Bunin has assembled into the “cabaret” performance of the character Sam Bendrix. Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir will play in the Hamburg Studio, which we’ll be transforming into the legendary nightclub of the title.
I intended to stay for just a few minutes at the beginning of the rehearsal yesterday but I ended up sitting and listening for a couple of hours. I noticed that playwright Keith Bunin was smiling along with me as we enjoyed the easy rapport that was quickly established between Luke and Doug, who will be playing Sam’s band leader, and the clear promise of a charismatic performance as Sam by Luke–who is a great singer. You can hear that for yourself by listening here to a couple of the tracks he recorded with his band “Fellow Nameless” – I especially like “Ahead of Me,” “Bone Dry,” “Take You Home,” and “The Wild.” (By the way, you can find a link to purchase Luke’s album while you’re there.) Of course, Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir is much different stylistically — it takes place in 1958 and Sam, backed by a three-piece ensemble, performs songs that were written more or less around the mid-20th century: classics from the American songbook by such musical giants as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein II, to name a few.