Full disclosure: I've never attended a Singer's Showcase concert during my time at Berklee, so I thought I should see what all of the buzz was about before I graduate. Dubbed "Retro-Future: Icons of the 80s," this showcase didn't seem to feature many upperclassmen as vocalists, with several second and third semester students singing lead. That was one of the first things I noticed during the show. While there were some definite mismatches with students and their assigned icons, there were also some standout moments that brought down the house.
Lexi Hamner shined on her first lead song, Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," but really let loose for her second feature, "Can You Stand The Rain" (first released by New Edition, then later remade by Boyz II Men). She ranged from a heavy contralto up into big soprano notes, adding several riffs in her performance.
First year student, Marlon Solomon, has an incredible and deep tone, yet felt like a mismatch for Prince's "When Doves Cry." Though Prince had both a deep voice and an iconic falsetto, his and Marlon's tones are both so distinct. Marlon came back much stronger for Bill Champlin's "Turn Your Love Around" (the George Benson version was performed). He had tons of stage presence and charisma during both songs and I'm excited to see how he develops during his time at Berklee.
When Ella-Jane Sharp took the stage for Anita Baker's "Caught Up In The Rapture," I was nervous. As Baker is currently on her farewell tour before retiring from music for good, her songs have been introduced to a new generation, gaining even more acclaim than when they were first released. Many like to box her music into the sub-genre "quiet storm," but her songs require a certain level of proficiency with both jazz and R&B. I could tell that Ella-Jane had done her share of shedding, as her performance was very solid. No one can match the tone of Anita Baker, so Ella-Jane gave the song its due respect by singing its arrangement without many vocal acrobatics and made it her own.
Much of the show included background dancers, from the opening number, Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation," to Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Janet's song was definitely where the dancers shined the most, as they were mostly recreating the dance from her music video. They did an awesome job creating the energy from the video.
Overall, while Singer's Showcase had tons of visual bells and whistles, there were also a lot of starts and stops as far as how successful each performer was with their assigned icon. The band gave a solid performance, with standout performances from seniorclassman Isaiah Weatherspoon on drums, seniorclassman Marc-Anthony Thompson on saxophone, and sophomore Keyanna Hutchinson on guitar. There was a high level of talent in the show and the audience seemed to really enjoy the production overall, with the greater Boston community filling the BPC all the way to the back rows of the second balcony.