Melinda mesmerizes at sold-out Martin Center benefit


Melinda mesmerizes at sold-out Martin Center benefit

By SUSAN LEATHERS

Melinda Doolittle channeled Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Frank Sinatra Tuesday night at the Franklin Theatre.

The 2014 Music & Memories Concert will most likely go down as the Mike & Melinda Show.

Tuesday night’s 9th annual concert at the Franklin Theatre benefiting the FiftyForward Martin Center quickly turned into a two-way banter between the show’s star, “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle, and front-row fan Mike Umphres that never let up.

The concert followed a VIP reception with Doolittle at the Brentwood senior center.

“They told me I could be a little feisty,” Doolittle shared as she opened the two-set show in the Franklin Theatre.

“Frisky is good,” Umphres replied, staring up at the star from his front and center seat.

“That was ‘feisty,'” Doolittle immediately shot back with a sly smile. “Mike, Don’t you make me come after you later!”

And so it began, and Doolittle, a Brentwood resident, made the most of it the rest of the evening.

With an easy-going stage presence that quickly mesmerized her sold-out audience, Doolittle channeled Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Frank Sinatra among others in between funny snippets about her ill-fated love life and other life stories. The crowd loved it.

Backed by a three-piece band, Doolittle’s repertoire moved from ballad to Broadway to pop songs throughout the evening, much to the appreciative audience’s delight.

Doolittle dedicated her first song after intermission — “My Funny Valentine” — to her new Martin Card Crusader buddy Marilyn Nevens.

“It was a very special song that Marilyn and her late husband Norbert loved to dance to,” Joyce Keistler, the center’s executive director explained after the show. A slide of the couple was projected on the stage’s backdrop while Doolittle sang the jazz standard.

“Marilyn will be turning  90 this year and dearly loves her new friend Melinda,” Keistler added.

Master of ceremonies Steve Goldstein reminded all attending that the real purpose of the evening was to provide financial support for all of the senior center’s programs. Goldstein, a Martin Center advisory board member, shared that 25 percent percent of the center’s members live at or below the poverty line.

“We couldn’t be here for a better cause,” Doolittle said later from the stage. 

Bancorp South served as presenting sponsor of Music & Memories, while Jackson National Life Insurance was premier sponsor. Food and drink for the VIP reception was donated by Cool Springs Wine and Spirits and G Catering and Events.

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