“You know the eHarmony song? That’s my song,” Natalie Cole cooed on Friday night, before launching into her infectious hit, This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).
The online dating service would have been hard-pressed to find a better love match to start the Mayo Performing Arts Center’s 2013-14 season.
“What grace,” MPAC Trustee Theresa DeLeon said after Natalie’s 90-minute show. “No gimmicks. She relied on her artistry and her talent.”
Well, there was a little technical magic thrown in. The nine-time Grammy winner duetted with her late father, Nat King Cole, on Come Closer and Unforgettable.
The video projections were tastefully done, not overdone, drawing warm responses from the thousand or so members of the audience.
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Natalie’s uptempo numbers–including tunes from her Natalie Cole in Espanol CD and Donna Summer’s She Works Hard for the Money, from a medley that also paid musical respects to the late Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson–were fun, too.
But ballads like Stardust and Charlie Chaplin’s Smile best showcased the silky voice that is her father’s living legacy.
The season-opening performance was welcomed with dramatic lighting outside, calling attention to a new marquee , box office and rest room facilities that are part of a $1.5 million facelift for the center, which began in 1937 as a film palace called the Community Theatre.
Friday marked the 11th opening night for Allison Larena, president of the Morristown nonprofit.
“This one stands out,” she said at the reception. “I really don’t think this theater has ever looked as beautiful.”
The Mayo Center presents about 200 shows a year, bringing some 200,000 patrons to Morristown and pumping $13 million into the local economy, Allison told the audience.
Patrons’ experience should be enhanced by elevators, a makeover of the lobby and an improved walkway to the Starlight Room, all coming in the weeks and months ahead, she said.
Allison’s husband, Paul Larena, is overseeing the project and his crew was busy almost right up to Friday’s opening curtain, making sure everything was ready.
“Every department worked hard,” Paul said. “It was a true team effort.”
The new box office opened the night before, as carpeting was being installed.
“As patrons were coming in, the carpet guys were going out,” Allison said.
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