"The Twelve Tenors" (Riverfront Theater): A Dozen Charming Crooners

#120. I have always had a thing for Irish men.  They have a playful nature and twinkling eyes. And if they can sing, it’s ‘Katy, bar the door.’

Riverfront Theater presents THE TWELVE TENORS.  A dozen good looking guys croon for the swoon.  It’s not your grandma’s opera roster.  These fellas are young.  Impeccably suited in identical outfits, they almost look like a 90’s boy band x 3.  In between numbers, there is a jocular familiarity between them that feels like total blarney.  But it works, these boys could charm the pot of gold from a leprechaun or even a drink from an American bartender.  And did I mention they sing?

The playlist is an eclectic showcase.  From the sentimental “Danny Boy” ballad to the soulful Queen’s “We are the Champions”, tradition meets contemporary across the genres and generations.  An opera medley features familiar arias from “Carmen” and “Turandot”.  Led by the alluring and talented Branden James and Michael Brown, the passionate songs become a dueling rivalry.  The whole show is sprinkled with spirited Irish tunes like “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and “Molly Malone.” But the Americans have their spots too.  Not only is Frank Sinatra’s work honored with a tribute but so is Barry Manilow.  I have to say the Manilow mix and the “Les Miserables” salute made me especially want to add my alto to the tenor line-up.

At the opening night performance, there was a 13th singer.  Chicago celebrity, Lou “Mr. Fix It” Manfredini lent his voice to multiple numbers.  Manfredini, best known for his WGN radio show, was a fun addition to the entertaining evening.  Manfredini even danced to an energetic “Twist and Shout” with the animated Jay McManus.  If Mick Jagger and Michael Flatley had a lovechild, it would be McManus. His moves were amazing agile antics.

Riverfront Theater is the newest Chicago venue for live performances.  The temperature controlled Big Top, along the river, entices with a sense of childlike play in grown-up style.  It’s a sophisticated fun ambiance.  Opening night, I had some issues with the acoustics.  When it was one tenor singing a line, it was difficult to decipher.  I’m not sure if it was the microphones, the cavernous space or the powerful band.  Solo snippets were lost to the music.  But when it was THE TWELVE TENORS together, the harmony was like a tasty Irish Coffee. It was the perfect blend of my favorite things: sweet, heat and treat.  Who wouldn’t want a second cup?

The Irish tenor to my right, Bill describes the show with ‘I enjoyed it.’

Running Time:  One hour and forty-five minutes includes an intermission

At Riverfront Theater, 650 W. Chicago

Thursday at 7:30pm

Friday at 8pm

Saturdays at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm

Sunday at 2pm and 5pm

Thru June 3rd

Buy Tickets at www.RiverfrontTheater.com


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  • Thanks for the great review, Katy! Glad you enjoyed the show.

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