Brian Stokes Mitchell heralds Mother's Day at Kennedy Center

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Brian Stokes Mitchell regards Washington as his second home, and no wonder. Whether he is performing at the Kennedy Center, George Mason University or another area venue, he packs the house with fervent fans. On Mother's Day, he joins the Choral Arts Society of Washington for an afternoon of Broadway show stoppers, beginning with his singular rendition of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha."

His portion of the program also features a medley of Gershwin songs along with others from "South Pacific," "Camelot," "Porgy and Bess" and "Kiss Me, Kate." His memorable portrayal of Fred Graham/Petruchio in that Cole Porter musical based on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" earned a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

The large Choral Arts symphonic chorus, directed by Scott Tucker, will open the show with "It's a Grand Night for Singing" from "State Fair" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The ensemble will also perform Jerome Kern's "A Choral Portrait" and Stephen Sondheim's "A Choral Celebration."

"We'll be accompanied by a 15-piece orchestra," Mitchell said. "It's always a pleasure singing in Washington, perhaps because the politicians and performers are fascinated with each other and have a mutual understanding of what it's like to be in the public eye. As for the Kennedy Center, it's the nation's theater, offering the best ballet, the best music and the best dance."

Onstage
Brian Stokes Mitchell
» Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW
» When: 5 p.m. Sunday
» Info: $29 to $85; 202-467-4600, 800-444-1324, 202-244-3669, 202-785-9727; kennedy-center.org, choralarts.org, wpas.org

Over the years, the Kennedy Center has showcased Mitchell in both concerts and theater. His first Tony nomination was for his role as Coalhouse Walker in "Ragtime." Blessed with a booming baritone voice, he is regarded as the ultimate Cervantes/Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha," for which he also received a Tony nomination, but he is equally effective in straight dramatic roles, as evidenced by his Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Play for his role as the king in August Wilson's "King Hedley II."

Stokes, as he likes to be called, enjoys a full career encompassing Broadway, television and film. He spent seven years as Dr. Justin "Jackpot" Jackson on "Trapper John, M.D." and was a regular on "Frasier" for several seasons. His recent appearances on "Glee" added to his diversity. Along the way, he has done voice-overs for dozens of animated characters on television and in two Flintstones animated movies. His second solo album, "Simply Broadway," came out this past October.

"I got the idea for the album by hearing one Tony Bennett did in 1970 with the late pianist Bill Evans," he said. "It was so effective that I decided to use only piano accompaniment by Tedd Firth, with whom I've been working for the past five years. We recorded 26 songs, then reduced that to 12 for the album. The songs are familiar, but they are rearranged to sound fresh and new. It's a minimalist album that puts a huge emphasis on the song structure and the singer."

Often dubbed "Broadway's last leading man," Mitchell is far more to his colleagues than a superb entertainer. As chairman of the Board of the Actors Fund, he is concerned with the well-being of all professional artists, including stage crew members, cameramen, circus performers, agents, dancers and everyone involved some way in show business.

"Our charity work has the highest rating of four stars," he said. "After Hurricane Sandy, we helped people who lost their homes find a place to stay and those who lost their instruments find new ones. We have a shoe fund for dancers, run nursing homes and provide health insurance.

"I've been so fortunate, [so] when the universe asks [me] to give back I like to be involved."

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