Focused on “bringing up humans” and activism, Julie Reyburn hasn’t been on a cabaret stage for eight years. She’s stored up a great deal of feeling. This thoughtful presentation overflows with sincerity and power.
Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting it Together” (re: this show) is fitted with some of her own specific lyrics. As music swells; the band contributes able vocal back-up. Imagine it as emerge, then erupt. With a “Cool” intro, “Something’s Coming” (Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim) follows in kind, a bit more country club Latin than street. Reyburn handles vocal expansion with finesse and control.
“Twentieth (Twenty First) Century Blues” is not a state the artist passively endures. “I believe in the vote, science, and making art loudly and frequently.” Her droll example? “Nina”: Senorita Nina, from Argentina, knew all the answers/Although her relatives and friends were perfect dancers/She swore she’d never dance a step until she died…The band dons traditional mariachi hats with pom-poms. It’s practically a production number. (Both Noel Coward.)
Reyburn comes from maverick stock. She regales us with the heritage of two forward-thinking, adventurous grandmothers and parents who took to the road as the folk duo, Brandywine. Sondheim’s “The Glamorous Life” reflects the latter situation with inexorable sweep. Movement rides tandem with longing. The vocalist’s own children are being raised differently. An intimate “Stop Time” (Richard Maltby/David Shire) arrives a bit too big, though nonetheless touching. Reyburn exudes warmth.
“My mother taught me I could do it all, so I set out to do just that. Now I’m 50, I need a nap…” Wondering about her own kids’ futures in a world of high tech and changing values elicits a rendition of “Blackbird” (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) that sounds like ritualistic, Medieval chant. The haunting interpretation would be better served without reference to computers etc. which sets us up for other expectations. Unto itself, it’s superb.
An anthemic “Back to Before” (Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty) is followed by “Move On” (Stephen Sondheim) deftly indicating choices.
Mark Janas excels in multi-layered arrangements, here, both musical and iconoclastically vocal. (A sense of humor is also evident.) For most of the show, this works well. Still, too much of a good thing…I can’t help but wish a few more songs arrived with less elaborate accompaniment, allowing straight-from-the-hip emotion to shine.
The title selection (Nicole Nordeman/Tommee Profitt) does just this. Light piano and bowed bass are wistful/grateful. “Try a Little Tenderness” (Harry Woods/Jimmy Campbell/Reg Connelly/James Pankow) is all soul. Reyburn gets R & B. Phrasing, emphasis and spirit are spot on.
Anywhere We Are is clearly conceived, well written, economically directed (look at us more please) and personal. An auspicious return.
The show will be repeated the first two Mondays in February.
Photos by Stephen Hanks
Opening: Julie Reyburn, Ritt Henn
Julie Reyburn: Anywhere We Are
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
December 15, 2019