FORT WORTH -- Story Songs III -- with its two-hour running time and 11 performers doing more than 30 songs -- is proof of the growing popularity of Betty Buckley's Song Interpretation workshops for aspiring musical theater singers.
Her classes are in demand around the country; dates in Denver and Los Angeles are scheduled this year.
This third installment of Buckley's student recitals, which opened Tuesday night at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth displays quite the range of talent and experience levels. If you go tonight, be prepared for a lengthy sit (they probably should add an intermission), and a performance that's often entertaining, occasionally enlightening and, sadly, a few times numbing.
One of the big hits was Willene Owens Luper, who did two songs from The Color Purple and one from The Wiz. She has a powerful R&B voice, but it'd be nice to hear her try something from classic Broadway, a tune that challenges her in a more legit way.
Two Buckley Song Interp veterans, Angela Davis and Marjorie Hayes, definitely set the bar for the other performers. Hayes excels at character roles; she's currently playing the role of Bloody Mary in South Pacific at Garland Summer Musicals, and gave us a taste of her Bali H'ai. Her rendition of Little Girls from Annie was hilarious, playing off a performance of that musical's big song Tomorrow, performed by the night's youngest performer, the engaging Macy Crowe.
Meanwhile, Davis displayed tremendous growth and the most emotional maturity with beautiful performances of the songs Ashbury 1943 and Make Me a Kite.
Another standout was Terri Lynn Kavanaugh, showing off comic chops in I Know Things Now from Into the Woods and Pulled from The Addams Family.
Kristi Dodge, Tiffany Morgan and the show's only man, James Worley, each had commendable moments, peppered with some weaker ones.
If some notes in the show weren't hit (sustaining notes at the end of phrases was a noticeable challenge for some in this crew), most of them showed promise in what Buckley focuses on in her classes, which is more about acting and vocal technique than voice lessons.
Buckley's staging sometimes had the performers moving between microphones, which was unwieldy. At its best, Story Songs is all about the performer and the song, not the staging.