Group synergy is key to the success of 'At the Movies'
by John Amodeo
MAY 15, 2003
PAGE 26 - ARTSPLUS
Upper; Nina Vansuch, Brian Patton;
lower: Michael Ricca, Will McMillan.
Photo: David Caras
Hearing a vintage film theme song can instantly transport us back to that place where we first heard that song, or when we first realized how that film affected our lives. The local Boston vocal group "At The Movies," consisting of four accomplished cabaret singers, Will McMillan, Brian Patton, Michael Ricca, and Nina Vansuch, gets to the heart of that feeling on their debut CD, aptly and cleverly called "Reel One."
The talented quartet blends their eccentric humor and superb musicality into this recording that is at first blush highly listenable, yet gets richer with every hearing. The clever song selection includes themes from such camp/cult films, as "Valley of the Dolls" and "Tootsie," to film songs by the Beatles and Randy Newman. When do we ever hear such great songs as "Georgy Girl," wonderfully sung here by Vansuch, with note-perfect tight harmony back-up from the guys? Vansuch shines on the recording's many pop cuts, including "Valley of the Dolls." The guys score high as well, with Patton's heartfelt "Secret Love," Ricca's touching "It Might Be You," and McMillan's disarming "That'll Do."
Though wonderful singers individually, it is the synergy they create working together, with Patton's inventive vocal and musical arrangements, that makes this CD a standout. From the opener, "Everyone Wants to Be a Cat," a Manhattan Transfer-like swing arrangement that doesn't quit, to the pulsing anthem "Journey To The Past," which drives to a rousing finish, the pieces soar on Patton's tight harmony vocal arrangements. Tapping into their funny bones, the group cleverly toys with "He's a Tramp," where Vansuch plays it straight to a delightfully loopy back-up of musical doghowls. They hilariously segue into an all-male arrangement of "Where The Boys Are," one of the CD's several highlights. Turning on a dime, the poignant transition from "Wives and Lovers" to "Coming Around Again" will leave you breathless. My one quibble would be that the film names are conspicuously absent from the jacket or liner notes. That aside, "Reel One" is such a fun and finely produced package of songs and vocal arrangements that it already has me anticipating the sequel.
The CD "Reel One," can be ordered from At The Movies' website www.atmmusic.biz. "At The Movies: performs next on May 18 at 5pm at at the Meeting House, 236 Commerical Street, Provincetown, as part of CaberetFest! Provincetown. (See related article for information on CabaretFest! Provincetown.)