Saturday night I attended a love fest at Town Hall. Linda Eder packed the place with what she called “Jekies,” diehard fans of Broadway’s 1997 Jekyll and Hyde (Frank Wldhorn/Leslie Bricusse), in which she played the heroine, Lucy. Guest performers Christiane Noll and Robert Cuccioli played Emma and Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde in that production. By the roar greeting every number from, and reference to the show, one can only agree with her conjecture concerning the audience. Presuming they (we) had listened to and/or purchased every CD that followed, Eder felt it unnecessary to identify any of the songs, about half of which were from the musical, leaving the rest of us at sea. The evening was clearly mounted in anticipation of the return of the piece to Broadway.
Eder has a big, well controlled instrument and a glorious soprano. Unfortunately, she shows no awareness of the meaning of lyrics. Even the iconic, torchy “Stormy Weather” was offered with an inappropriate little smile. I believed not a single emotion expressed with the sole exception of an ethereal song called “Now” she cited as being classically based, on which she was joined vocally by keyboard player Laila Biali.
With full concentration on manipulating notes, phrases, and breathing, Eder also exhibited her disregard for lyrics by not making them intelligible. Phrases were swallowed and words slurred together in so many songs I rarely had any idea to what I was listening. Pop-centric sobs, dramatic octave changes, and the throat-rolling of notes evoked attitude but no clarity. I did understand “Crazy” and “Walking After Midnight” (popularized by Patsy Kline) which were pristine, just as Cline performed them.
The show had no through line. Unrelated songs (except those from the musical) followed one another as if drawn from a hat. Patter seemed awkward and unconsidered, if friendly.
The second act contained several very rhythmic pop/rock numbers whose beat and melodies were sufficiently infectious for the audience to clap along. Onstage, Eder appeared oblivious shaking not a hip or shoulder. Duets with her guests were musically very fine, but while both Noll and Cuccioli played characters and visibly attempted to relate to Eder, she held her abstract ground in great part facing the audience rather than her partner.
Guest artist Christiane Noll’s rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” was simply lovely. Her seemingly effortless contralto inhabited the song’s reflective mood making it plaintive and intimate. Noll delivered a stirring “In His Eyes” and had flirty fun with “Bring On the Men” (both with Eder). ‘A thoroughly appealing performer. Guest Artist Robert Cuccioli, warming up as the evening progressed, was most engaging in his two second act solos, both of which generated the kind of heat and power that earned him praise on Broadway. His deep resonant voice rose to the rafters.
Photo credit Maryann Lopinto
1. Linda Eder
2. Christiane Noll, Linda Eder. Robert Cuccioli
Linda Eder “A New Life”
Guest Vocalists: Christiane Noll, Robert Cuccioli
Billy Jay Stein-Musical Director/Piano
Conrad Korsch-bass, Jon Clancy-drums, Peter Calo-guitar,
Laila Biali-keyboard/vocals, David Mann-woodwinds, Dan Levine-trombone
October 13, 2012