Dawn Derow – The House That Built Me

Vocalist Dawn Derow likes to mix it up. Her last excellent show conjured a bandstand in the 1940s. This time around, replete with enviably warm home movies, she focuses on her childhood/roots.

A preface of “Daughters” (John Mayer) by guitarist Peter Calo takes us comfortably back to the 1970s. The musician creates a layered waterfall of melody under which one wants to sit. Derow joins the band with her own guitar in a country-lilted rendition of “The House That Built Me” (Miranda Lambert): “I know they say you can’t go home again./I just had to come back one last time… Her vibrant alto aptly pronounces “on” as “awn” and “world” at “whorl,” dropping gs as if local.

We hear about the way her parents met (sounds like a Springsteen song) and her dad’s choice of date movies, Hello, Dolly!, not Patton or M*A*S*H. The couple moved several times landing in Maryland. He filled the house with music of musicals, she baked pot brownies. They had two children, two dogs, and a cat.

Steve Doyle’s neatly woven, tandem arrangement of “Our House” (Graham Nash) and “Our House” (Madness) tickles with originality. Derow’s pleasure is infectious.

A complete switch occurs when the family puts down roots in “Old Cape Cod” (Claire Rothrock/Milton Yakus/Alan Jeffrey). This vocal recalls the last presentation. Derow sounds like a radio chanteuse with shoulder pads and ooo ooo back-up. Swoony.

“O Mio Babbino Caro” and “Che Il Bel Sogno Di Doretta” (Giacomo Puccini) arrive by way of opera training. Derow is nothing if not multifaceted.  The first turns into a campy “Mambo Italiano” (Bob Merrill). Attitude, exaggerated accent, gesture, and crinkled nose take over; oh, and the performer can mooove.

“Someday Soon” (Ian Tyson, popularized by Judy Collins) takes us back to country western territory (Derow interprets this more insistently than the icon), while a buoyant “Make Your Own Party” (Zina Goldrich/Marcy Heisler), accompanied by a great teenage rebellion story, erupts with innocent pop: “Sometimes you’ve got to make your own party/Sometimes you’ve got to bake your own cake…”

“The Broad’s Way Medley” (arranged by Matt Baker, Jeff Harnar, Dawn Derow) cleverly bridges song excerpts. Thus the lyric “I’ll be so happy to keep his dinner warm…to bask in the glow of his perfectly understandable neglect…” (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) is followed by “In the meanwhile…”(A Little Night Music) and then “He is pleased with me, my Lord and Master…” (The King and I) “…When he looks at me, what does he see?” “Tits and ass…” (A Chorus Line.)

I admit to not knowing where Derow is coming from with both “When I Was a Boy” (Dar Williams) and “My Little Girl” – is this her father singing? (Soliloquy from Carousel – Rodgers & Hammerstein.)

A highlight tonight is the unfamiliar to me “Barbies” (Alecia Moore (Pink)/Julia Michaels/ Ross Galon/Jakob Jerlstrom/Ludvig Soderberg) The story-song is beautifully enacted – sad, wounded, bitter “…I turned into someone I swore I would never be…” Doyle’s bow hits as well as strokes. Heartbeat.

Steve Doyle and Peter Calo are top notch, a pleasure both to watch and hear.

Caveats: A duet with Derow is the only time all evening Matt Baker shows any expression/sign of involvement. In my opinion, collecting donations from the audience, albeit in a “traditional kitchen apron dance,” is inappropriate. The microphone is hot making almost everything unnecessarily loud .

Photos by Suzanne Fiore Photography

Dawn Derow – The House That Built Me
Matt Baker MD/Piano/Vocal
Peter Calo – Guitar/Vocals Steve Doyle – Bass/Vocals
Directed by Jeff Harnar
The Laurie Beechman Theater 
407 West 42nd Street
June 26, 2019

About Alix Cohen (638 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.