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Posted at 9:27 AM ET, 02/14/2011

Euan Morton both frisky and pensive at Signature

By Nelson Pressley

"I was not accosted by a drunk Scottish drag queen," a frisky Euan Morton insisted at Signature Theatre Thursday. The singer-actor, Scotland-born but living stateside since his 2003 Broadway debut in "Taboo" playing Boy George (and co-starring with Boy George, oddly, who played someone else), was defending his strange red plaid short sleeved shirt and blue tie getup. He was flip and funny all night, until each song began. Then Morton's high, controlled tenor was all business.

A sweet business it is, too. It takes nerve to tackle Leonard Cohen's over-covered "Hallelujah" anymore, but Morton easily staked his own claim, drawing listeners in with soft prayer and powering the crescendos with tough, earnest cries. That was pretty much the mode all night, as Morton began with Leon Russell's "A Song for You" and generally navigated through a catalogue of pensive pop ballads.

A rare high-powered exception was "Anthem" from the musical "Chess," which was as thrilling as when Morton performed it in Signature's production a few months ago. The rest of the music tended to be less grandly lovelorn and yearning, and even if his set-ups were riotous (as they were for the unlikely "La Vie En Rose" and "As Long as He Needs Me"), the performances were sincere and commanding. Pianist Bryan Reeder is a good partner for Morton: Reeder's driving style, sometimes ornamented with ribbons of gospel, brings out the muscle and hurt in these songs.

Signature doesn't have to do much to convert The Ark, the smaller of its two spaces, into a workable cabaret. Tables and chairs are set up in front of the stage, and narrow counters with tealight candles are rigged through the rows of regular theater seating to encourage eating and drinking. Morton seemed reluctant to quit but finally finished with a genuinely infectious, slowed-down sing-a-long of Roy Orbison's "You Got It,"

By Nelson Pressley  | February 14, 2011; 9:27 AM ET
Categories:  Reviews  
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