“Life, Love, and Longevity”, Stephanie Spruill informs the audience from the stage at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s about her secret to success. She was kicking off one of the hottest, most high energy and entertaining shows there since the Grammy and Emmy-nominated Ambassador of the Great American Songbook, Michael Feinstein, took over the musical venue last year above the famed Vitello’s Supper Club in Studio City. Spruill treated an overflow audience to two rousing sets of jazz, show tunes, blues, her own compositions, life stories, comedy and an introduction to her granddaughters. Along the way she strolled through the tables, serenading fans with a vocal power that demonstrated why the actress, singer, songwriter, and producer is also head of one of Hollywood’s best voice schools.
Spruill was joined onstage by her band, Michiko Hill on keys, Robert Pee Wee Hill on bass, Chad A. Wright on drums, Nolan Shaheed on trumpet, Buddy Nuanez on guitar, Robert Kyle on sax, and backup singers Retha de Johnette, Nikko Lowe Dumas, and Ashley Lowe. The band kept the evening moving as Spruill spun, laughed, danced, sang and filled the 120-seat room with vitality and song. Whether you were at a front table where you could see every sequin on her blue and gold costume, or in the back taking in the whole performance, you felt Spruill’s uncanny ability to make her music feel personal to every member of the audience. At one point, she shouted out greetings to her many friends and family in the room, waving at them as they clapped and waved at her. It was a tour de force.
Between the jazz standards like “Fever”, bluesy ballads and rocking R&B, she kept up a high energy patter of jokes, stories about jazz in New York, funny experiences from a long career studded with Grammy and Oscar stage appearances and singing on hundreds of platinum and gold records, and recording with Arista Records. And of course she was not shy about giving her opinions on various topics, making the evening far more than the sum of its parts- it was a performance as well as a concert.
As part of that performance, Spruill used her long arms, swaying body and rubber actress-face to add an extra dimension to the enthralling music. She grinned and grimaced, whirled and swirled, strutted and seduced the audience in an up-close-and-personal stroll in a non-stop act that left fans laughing, clapping and a bit exhausted from her constant movement. She didn’t need to catch a breath, but once in a while, the folks at the tables did.
But they did catch their breath to give her a standing ovation and then would not let her go. After an encore, she came off the stage and was mobbed by friends old and new as the room flashed with selfies. A night to remember.
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