‘The Real La La Land’ stuns audience at Jazz, TX


Raquel Alonzo, The Paisano

Raquel E. Alonzo

Jazz, TX held four showings of their Las Vegas production “The Real La La Land” on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 at 7 p.m. Pianist and bandleader Doc Watkins and his orchestra hosted Graham Fenton, who has played Frankie Valli for the past nine years in the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys”; Dave Damiani from Sinatra 100 and CBS Vegas; and Bijon Watson, who has played trumpet professionally for singers Michael Bublé and Justin Timberlake as well as in the movie “La La Land.”

The idea behind “The Real La La Land” is to use the movie as a springboard and create something that resonates with real stories of musicians who have struggled to get where they are. Fenton and Damiani were singing waiters at Miceli’s Restaurant in Hollywood 10 years ago and have since pursued their dreams. Damiani envisions bringing back the swagger and class of jazz music to the public along the way.

Watkins began the show with Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys’ “Home In San Antone,” a tradition he and his orchestra keep. The orchestra consists of three saxophones, one trumpet, one trombone, drums, a bass violin and a piano. At the end of the song, Watkins shouted warmly “Welcome to Jazz, TX, y’all!”

Songs performed included Frank Sinatra’s “How Little We Know,” Ella Fitzgerald’s “Taking A Chance On Love,” James Moody’s “Mood For Love,” Bing Crosby’s “Pennies From Heaven,”

Louis Armstrong’s “Sunny Side Of The Street,” Ella Fitzgerald’s “Manhattan,” George & Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” Little Anthony & The Imperials’s “Goin’ Out Of My Head” and Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”

In the middle of the set, Damiani began to sing his own rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Halfway through the famous song, Fenton replaced Damiani and finished with vocals that left the audience awestruck.

While Watkins and his orchestra played Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys’ “Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer),” “ShowStoppers” stars of the Wynn in Las Vegas’ Nicole Caplan and Heidi Webster joined Fenton Damiani in singing, bringing down the house in applause.

Watkins and his orchestra finished the show with Harry James Orchestra “Two O’Clock Jump.” Each player from the orchestra, including Watkins, was able to perform their own solo. The show ended with a standing ovation as each musician stood to take a bow.

For more information on upcoming shows at Jazz, TX, visit the website at jazztx.com.