Every life has a story. But for Michael Crawford, every life is a musical. Especially his own. In fact, to hear him tell it, his life has been a version of "The Music Man."
At least that was the perception Thursday night as the British tenor sang himself dry at the Delta Center.Was it the altitude or his age that kept wearing him out he wondered aloud. But he soldiered on. For a pro, "show time" means showtime.
In a carefully orchestrated program, Crawford sang an anthology of music from the stages of his life, carefully stitching the songs together with a running array of anecdotes, one-liners and general autobiography. The result was a male version of "Funny Girl," with text by Eric Idle.
Opening with "Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (a religious number that - along with the closing church tunes - framed the evening), Crawford walked us through his times - through grandma's house and "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," on to television, the stage (where he first came across "Tonight" and the music of Stephen Sondheim). The romance years were important ("When I Fall in Love"), as was his stint in "The Music Man" itself.
After some random numbers, Crawford brought out soprano Dale Christian for a duet on "All I Ask of You" and a little night music on "Music of the Night" as he told the crowd of his "Phantom" years.
The highlight of the evening was Crawford relating a faux pas with a boat in one of the first London performances of the musical - a rollicking piece of silliness that had the audience in tears.
After "Phantom," it was time for the denouement. The singer pulled a stool forward and sang two numbers from his new inspirational CD, "On Eagle's Wings." Then sang one encore and fled into the shadows.
In all, if you want one word that describes the show, "sophisticated" isn't bad. Dressed in a black tux with a full orchestra in black and the white-clad University of Utah a cappella choir behind him, Crawford wanted to make sure the pricier tickets didn't feel too expensive. They didn't. He even made the audience stretch a bit musically (three Sondheim tunes in one night is always a brain teaser).
Opening act for the concert was David Arkenstone. The New Age icon offered up a half-dozen songs from his album, "Celtic Book of Days." The songs ranged from impish and bright to powerful and plaintive - as much as New Age music can be said to range.
As for Crawford, this was an early stop in his 30-city tour. And it was obvious Salt Lake City gave him a good send-off.
Probably a good enough send-off, in fact, to ensure his eventual return.