— Elliot Zwiebach -- Cabaret Scenes -- December 13, 2009
“Nita Whitaker packs a wallop.
Whether singing jazz, blues or Broadway, Whitaker delivers the message of each song in a well-modulated voice with a clear, forthright delivery that consistently hits home.
She established her strong credentials immediately, kicking off the show with a ballad — “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” (Diane Warren), a statement about the ability to survive whatever life throws one’s way — followed by a self-penned up-tempo song, “You Are My Friend,” which allowed her to establish a strong rapport with the audience while also demonstrating a high energy level.
She sustained that rapport in a tribute to Michael Jackson, singing “Never Can Say Goodbye” (by Clifton Davis) and then moving through the audience with a hand-mic and asking people to sing the refrain.
She also scored on another original song —“ Courage to Dream” — which she sang with a simple, honest delivery featuring a string of sustained high notes; and on the always powerful “On My Way to You” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman/Michel Legrand).
Whitaker sang Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” in a jazz-pop version — with a soulful final note — that featured a strong piano solo from Nelson Cole and a variety of exotic sounds from percussionist Bryan Brock. A jazz-tinged version of “The Impossible Dream” (Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion) offered more of a wailing style at the finish than any of her other songs.
A former Miss Louisiana, Whitaker showed she’s more than just a pretty face and voice in two comedy bits: the first a parody of various beauty-show contestants (dumb, insecure, urban); the second what she called her “white girl” or “melanin-free” medley, in which she sang songs from Broadway shows that would require color-blind casting for her to get a role, including dead-on impressions of Julie Andrews singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” and Sarah Brightman singing “All I Ask of You,” as well as credible versions of “I Cain’t Say No,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Memory” and “Adelaide’s Lament.”
Whitaker also used the show to bring her teenage daughter, Lisi LaFontaine, on stage to sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”(Hugh Martin) — with LaFontaine reading the lyrics to the verse off her hand before singing the rest of the song sweetly and engagingly. The number included an audience sing-along and a beautiful combination of mother and daughter on the final note. The only thing sweeter than LaFontaine’s solid performance was the smile on her mother’s face throughout the song.”
— David Foster
“My favorite singer”
“Thank you for breathing life into our music”
“When she sings, she makes us feel connected to the human race and to God”
“The voice of the new millennium”
“The voice you hear in your dreams”
It's difficult to put Nita into one category. Raised in church music, trained in classical, honed in pop, Nita's voice is a remarkable instrument that's difficult to define. But when you hear her power chops and sweet bell tones, you…