Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

You Say Tribute, I Say… (“I Left My Heart” at the Candlelight Pavilion)

The cast of "I Left My Heart" belts out a classic tune at the Candlelight Pavilion

The cast of “I Left My Heart” belts out a classic tune at the Candlelight Pavilion

Going to see a musical tribute show takes discernment: are you going because you want to relive a treasured moment, see an artist you wish you could have heard “in real life,” or are you simply enamored of the music the artist sang? This gets even more complex if the singer wrote none of his own material, so that much of what he is famous for is work actually created by someone else.

Which brings me to “I Left My Heart,” a salute to Tony Bennett now at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont. Unlike tribute bands, which recreate long-past concerts, or musical biographies which trace the story behind the music, revues like “I Left My Heart” concentrate on the songs that artist is connected to.

The problem with doing this with Tony Bennett is compiling music from his repertoire which resonates as his. He may be famous for a few songs, like “Rags to Riches” or, of course, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” but most of the other music he recorded has, over time, been more thoroughly connected to someone else. “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” and “Top Hat” are signature tunes of Fred Astaire. “Love Story” or “The Days of Wine and Roses” are much more connected to Andy Williams. “Make Someone Happy” is signature Jimmy Durante. And on it goes.

Still, they are all likable tunes, and at the Candlelight Pavilion a fabulous jazz quintet backs up three singers who take great joy in singing the songs, while not trying at all to “be” Tony Bennett singing them.

Musical Director Martin Green has amassed five amazing musicians in Alan Waddington, Gino Munoz, Robert Slack, Brandon Shaw and Chris Wills. It’s just possible that they provide the main reason to come see the show. As the purveyors of song, Damon Kirsche has that late 50s jazz crooner style down, Caleb Shaw provides an earnest clarity, and, though his vocals are the most shakey, Richard Bermudez provides a youthful feel to his moments in the sun.

The staging, basic but continually engaging, is organized by director John LaLonde as a concert, plane and simple. You could be watching this in Vegas or at any nostalgic nightclub. And that’s exactly what the tribute wants to be: a celebration of the music which defines the span of Bennett’s career. They are not being Bennett, they are simply honoring him.

In any case, the results are – for the most part – toe-tapping and easy to like. At Candlelight Pavilion the show comes with an attractive, if not wildly gourmet, dinner, and a remarkable dinner-time classical guitarist. It makes for a complete evening, right down to the decadent desserts at intermission.

And, essentially, that’s what “I Left My Heart” is: a delicious auditory dessert of fine old songs done with enthusiasm, backed by talented jazz musicians. It’s not great art, and I’m not sure it is really much of a direct homage to Tony Bennett, but it makes for a pleasant, relaxing time.

What: “I Left My Heart” When: Through February 3, Thursday through Saturday evening open for dinner at 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday open for matinee brunch at 11 a.m. Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont How Much: $53 – $68 for adults, $25 – $30 for children 12 and under, meal inclusive Info: (909) 626-1254. ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com.

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