Everyman Theatre's summer cabaret features Broadway veterans

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Back in the days when Everyman Theatre was located in cramped quarters on North Charles Street, the company periodically inserted modest musical revues into the lineup. I remember enjoyable cabarets there devoted to songs by Irving Berlin and the lyrics of Dorothy Fields.

Happily ensconced in its spacious digs on West Fayette Street since 2013, Everyman has now revisited the cabaret concept to present “Broadway Favorites: A Summer Cabaret.” It features two veterans of the Great White Way, Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez.

Rather than use the main theater, Everyman has sensibly moved the action for this new show to the upstairs rehearsal room. The space has been configured to provide an up-close, informal experience, with small tables set up on the floor.

The setting made me hope for a very intimate revue full of subtle moments and songs that draw, rather than yank, you into a lyric. But “Broadway Favorites,” directed by Noah Himmelstein, keeps the showstoppers coming and has the two stars operating too often at a sing-to-the-balcony level.

McLane and Hernandez, who starred in Everyman’s premiere production of the revamped Ellen Fitzhugh/Michael John LaChiusa musical “Los Otros” last year, certainly have impressive vocal stamina for the big numbers.

But all the belting grows a bit wearying by the end — McLane wraps up with an emotion-pumping “I Dreamed a Dream,” Hernandez with an equally emphatic “The Impossible Dream.” Still, both performers are such good company that the net effect is a plus.

Music director Daniel Green, another seasoned Broadway artist, provides sturdy accompaniment at the piano as the singers serve up mementos of their career (they effectively intersperse chitchat about their years on the stage).

There’s a loud, frantic medley of “Mamma Mia” tunes from McLane, who chalked up more than 4,000 performances in that show in New York. She also makes an earnest case for so-so songs from the not terribly successful musicals “Johnny Guitar” and “Bridges of Madison County.”

McLane caresses the first half or so of the great “Showboat” ballad “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” but pushes the rest too hard (her tendency to sing just under pitch gets more obvious when she belts). The singer’s dynamic edge is put to better use in “How Lucky Can You Get,” a snappy number from “Funny Lady,” film sequel to “Funny Girl.”

There’s also room for a droll number for McLane — “I Want Them Bald,” by the musical theater duo Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich — that finds her working the room to amusing effect. (Hair-challenged men are likely to get extra attention if they sit up front.)

Hernandez is at his best when caressing a lyric, as in the opening of “Some Enchanted Evening” (I wish he would keep that nuance going all they way through), or slipping into a sweet falsetto. He also milks the humor on “I Am Aldolpho” from “The Drowsy Chaperone” with panache.

Like McLane, Hernandez has a strong association to a major musical, in his case “Les Miserables”; he has the distinction of being the only actor to tackle the role of Valjean and Javert on Broadway. From that work, he sings the ballad “Bring Him Home” with such conviction, such tender phrasing that it’s possible to forget just how treacly the song is.

The show includes some welcome duets. “Old Fashioned Wedding” from “Annie Get Your Gun” could use more finesse, but is still fun, and the singers go all-out in selections from “Evita.” But the two do their most memorable, expressive blending in their encore — happily no belting here (and no spoiler alert, either).

If you go

"Broadway Favorites: A Summer Cabaret" runs through July 22 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette St. Tickets are $40. Call 410-752-2208, or go to everymantheatre.org.



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