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‘Stardust’ Is Gleaming Revue of Songs with Parish Lyrics

November 12, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ ″Stardust,′ which opened Tuesday night off-Broadway, is a gleaming, three- way winner.

First, the musical revue at Theater Off Park is done about as well as such things get - well-sung, satisfyingly smooth but not slick. There are changes of costume and dancing, all top-grade professional. For variety, there’s a beautifully exaggerated takeoff on ″The Lucky Strike Hit Parade.″

Second, it’s a tribute - long overdue - to lyricist Mitchell Parish. Most people know ″Star Dust″ as Hoagy Carmichael’s, ″Sophisticated Lady″ as Duke Ellington’s, ″Moonlight Serenade″ as Glenn Miller’s, ″Don’t Be That Way″ as Benny Goodman’s and ″Sleigh Ride″ as Leroy Anderson’s. But do they know that Mitchell Parish wrote the words? Not usually.

And most have heard ″Deep Purple,″ ″Stars Fell on Alabama,″ ″Tell Me Why,″ ″Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia,″ ″Stairway to the Stars″ and ″Ruby″ - sung here in a burly tone by Andre de Shields - and can’t put writers’ names to them. Mitchell Parish wrote the lyrics to those songs, too.

There are 36 songs in ″Stardust″ and not a bad lyric among them.

Third, hearing singer Michele Bautier would be reason enough alone to go to ″Stardust.″ It’s the first off-Broadway show for Miss Bautier, who’s been compared to Ruth Etting. And she’s a star.

Her voice is warm, rich and full. It is clear, not smoky. It enters the lyrics and brings them forward, so you notice nuances you never heard before. She has a jazz feel but is at her best in ballads and torch songs. Parish, a true denizen of Tin Pan Alley, where popular songs were written and published, to be turned into sheet music and records, wrote a lot more of those than he did of novelty songs.

The other performers were no slouches. De Shields was in the original Broadway casts of ″The Wiz″ and ″Ain’t Misbehavin’.″ Maureen Brennan starred in ″Candide″ on Broadway. Kim Criswell sang ″Memory″ in the Los Angeles company of ″Cats.″ Jason Graae played the title role of ″Snoopy″ on Broadway. Jim Walton’s most recent Broadway show was ″42nd Street.″

Albert Harris, artistic director of Theater Off Park since 1984, directed. Listening to Parish’s lyrics, even in the unfamiliar songs, one notices that they’re sophisticated, not banal. But they’re also understandable, not rarified.

Familiarity doesn’t dim their evocative, distinctive shine - ″Now the purple dusk of twilight time steals across the meadows of my heart.″

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