Review of Klea Blackhurst: “Everything the Traffic Will Allow” A Tribute to the Music of Ethel Merman, presented by the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota

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“It’s Necessary to Sing”
When Ethel Merman was asked why she was on Broadway she said it was because “I sing for necessity.” Last night, at the Artists Series Concert in the Historic Asolo Theater, “Everything the Traffic will Allow” by Klea Blackhurst was the epitome of the real cabaret singer belting out the tunes that made Ethel Merman famous. The show commenced with a musical overture performed by the piano accompanist Bruce Barnes. Throughout the evening, Mr. Barnes knew when to accent every song as the singer explained why she performs with necessity and keeps Ms. Merman’s vocal memory alive. Ms. Blackhurst opened Saturday’s show with “Who Could Ask for Anything More” — and more is what she gave us for the 1 hour 20 minute show.

Ms. Blackhurst, from Utah with a Catholic grandfather who called her monkey face, had the vocal strength and  stage presence as if she came from a Astoria Queens as had Ethel Merman. Throughout the evening, as she introduced songs Ms. Blackhurst shared colorful stories about Ms. Merman who was born, as Ethel told it in either 1908, 1910 or 1912, as Ethel Zimmerman. At age 20 after she met George Gershwin she removed the Z I M from her last name to become Merman. She was not very well known for her ‘scat singing’ but was the superstar of the 1930’s on Broadway. Cole Porter told the press her singing was honest. Not only was Merman a Broadway star but, as Blackhurst explained, when Merman played Annie Oakley she performed in every single performance – 1147 – over approximately 4 years. And she also shared the back-story about Merman’s final appearance on Broadway in Hello Dolly. Though the part was written for Merman she originally turned it down thus allowing other famous stars to play the lead. Eventually when called once again and asked to take over Merman agreed “now that previews are out of the way.” For her productions two new songs were added specifically for Merman to sing.

While introducing the show, Executive Director John Fisher explained to the audience that recently, while meeting with a powerful member of the National Endowment for the Arts, the person had exclaimed that Sarasota is definitely one of the most cultural, artistic cities in the country. Tonight was yet another example of why Sarasota has earned that acclaim.

With the final standing ovation performance we walked out respectfully knowing, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”




October 26, 2014

Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota Presents

Klea Blackhurst: “Everything the Traffic Will Allow”

A Tribute to the Music of Ethel Merman

November 15 and 16 • Historic Asolo Theater

The acclaimed actress, singer and comedienne brings her crackling wit and powerful vocals to stage of the Historic Asolo Theater in her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman.


“A huge voice, a love of all things Merman, and just the right amount of humorous perspective. Ms. Blackhurst emerges from behind the Merman image and soars on her own.” Lesbian and Gay New York

“Easily one of the very best cabaret shows I’ve ever seen!”Cabaret Scenes Magazine


(Sarasota, Florida) Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota presents actress, singer and comedienne Klea Blackhurst in “Everything the Traffic Will Allow,” Blackhurst’s award-winning salute to Ethel Merman, Saturday, November 15, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 16, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. The show features such signature songs as “I Got Rhythm,” “Blow, Gabriel Blow,” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” as well as such rarely performed gems as “Just a Moment Ago” and “I’ve Still Got My Health.” Tickets are $25 to $45 and can be purchased online at or by calling 941-360-7399.

While best known for “Everything the Traffic Will Allow,” Klea Blackhurst has been winning audiences and critics over for years with a body of work that includes theater, concerts, television, film, radio and recording. She has performed with symphonies, orchestras and theatrical productions across the globe, including the London Palladium’s presentation of “Jerry Herman’s Broadway” with Angela Lansbury, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s production of “Bernstein’s Broadway” and “Standard Time with Michael Feinstein” at Carnegie Hall.  Blackhurst’s theater credits include principal roles in “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn,” “Radio Gals,” “Oil City Symphony,” “Call Me Madam,” “Chicago,” and “Anything Goes.” On TV and radio, Blackhurst has appeared on “Law and Order: SVU,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “Sesame Street” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”  Blackhurst’s most recent project, “Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael,” is a collaboration with Billy Stritch. They celebrated their CD release with a packed performance at Birdland, where she is also a frequent guest host for Jim Caruso’s infamous Cast Party.

“Everything the Traffic Will Allow,” earned Blackhurst the inaugural Special Achievement Award from Time Out New York magazine and her recording of “Everything the Traffic Will Allow” was named one of the top 10 show albums of 2002 by Talkin’

“This is a rare opportunity  to experience Klea Blackhurst performing her signature ode to Ethel Merman, one of American theater’s greatest stars,” says John Fischer, executive director of the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota. “It’s a loving homage with fascinating anecdotes and wonderful musicdelivered with sass, savvy and a sensational sense of humor.”

Since 1996, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota has presented an ever-expanding annual season of concerts by globally renowned and celebrated emerging artists. The 2014-2015 season runs through May 2015 and includes six concerts in its “Classical Recital Series,” four concerts in its “Pop Series,” and three special concerts. Three “Lunch, Look and Listen” events are also scheduled. For more information about the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota’s 2014-2015 season, visit or call 941-306-1202.


The 2014-2015 Season at a Glance

Classical Recital Series

Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Asolo Theater; 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.

  • Morgenstern Trio with Catherine Klipfel, piano, Stefan Hempel, violin, and Emanuel Wehse, cello, performing works by Schubert, Boulanger, Mendelssohn and Ravel. November 1 and 2.
  • Takaoki Onishi, baritone, and Arlene Shrut, piano, performing works by Ravel, Korngold and Rossini. December 6 and 7.
  • Adrian Anantawan, violin, and Amy Yang, piano, performing works by Brahms, Ravel and Mozart. January 31 and February 1.
  • Ying Quartet with Ayano Ninomiya, violin, Janet Ying, violin, Phillip Ying, viola, and David Ying, cello, performing works by Haydn, Auerbach, and Beethoven. March 14 and 15.
  • Bion Tsang, cello, and Adam Neiman, piano, performing works by Faure, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. April 18 and 19.
  • Adrienne Danrich, vocalist, and Djordje Nesic, May 30 and 31.

Pop Series

At the Historic Asolo Theater; 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.

  • “Everything That Traffic Will Allow: A Tribute to the music of Ethel Merman” with Klea Blackhurst, singer/actress. November 15, 7:30 p.m., and November 16, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
  • “Into the Night with Gershwin”: The Music of George Gershwin and Marvin Hamlisch” with Thomas Pandolfi, piano. February 28, 7:30 p.m., and March 1, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
  • Trumpet Invasion” with Brandon Ridenour, trumpet, Mara Bonde, soprano, and Rich Ridenour, piano. May 2, 7:30 p.m., and May 3, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
  • “A Romp With Gilbert & Sullivan” with Tracy Olivera, soprano, Bob McDonald, baritone, Steve Cramer, tenor, Joseph Holt, piano, and the Gloria Musicae Singers performing highlights from “Pirates” “The Mikado,” and “Pinafore.” May 9, 7:30 p.m., and May 10, 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Lunch, Look and Listen

One-hour concerts at 11 a.m. followed by lunch at 12:15 p.m. At Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 East Avenue South, Sarasota.

  • Trio Voila with Thomas Koch, guitar, Jane Hoffman, flute, and Laura Jensen Jennings, viola, performing works by Beethoven, Johanson, and Willis. January 22.
  • Best Of The Great American Songbook” with Jennifer Sheehan, cabaret/theater singer, and James Followell, piano, performing songs by Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and more. February 12.
  • Samus Haddad, baritone, and Lee Dougherty Ross, piano, performing spirituals and songs by Weill and Hoiby. March 19.

Soiree Series

Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. and Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m. At the Weisenborne/Fischer residence. Call for address.

  • Jennifer Kim, classical guitar. April 26 and 27.

Special Performances

At the Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.

  • “A Broadway Holiday” with Will & Anthony Nunziata, cabaret singers, Gloria Musicae Singers and Alvin Hough, Jr., piano, performing holiday songs. December 20, 7:30 p.m., and December 21, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
  • 2015 Edvard Grieg Festival in Florida, featuring three concerts of lesser-known works performed by Alan Dunbar, bass-baritone, Gregory Martin, piano, the Gloria Musicae Singers, under the direction of Joseph Holt, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano,
  • Njål Sparbo, bass-baritone, and Einar Røttingen, piano. Also featuring lectures, presentations, an exhibit of Grieg’s manuscripts, and a competition for prizes that include a concert tour in Norway. January 9-11. For a complete listing of all events, visit


Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota

Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota was formed in 1996 as the Artist Series of Sarasota. The group is a non-profit corporation based in Sarasota, FL, that prides itself on presenting several major national and international varieties of concert, opera, orchestral, Broadway and film performances throughout their season. The majority of the performances are staged at the restored Historic Asolo Theater at The Ringling.

Photos courtesy of the artists.

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