Tonight Leanne Borghesi resembles a blowsy Anna Magnani, delivers patter a la Phyllis Diller, insinuates like a loose-jointed Mae West, and employs the Sophie Tucker/Big Mama Thornton portion of vocal ability. Her lipstick glitters; an extremely long feather boa substantially molts and is vacuumed up by the artist. At one point Borghesi crawls, lays on her back, and scissors legs past the high slit in a long gown. It’s a helluva ride.
Entering from the back of the room with an Italian “Meglio Stasera – It Had Better Be Tonight,” powerful alto and perfect enunciation virtually collar us. (Henry Mancini/Italian lyrics Franco Migliacci/ English lyrics Johnny Mercer)
“After the incident with you-know-who, I had to get out of here stat. (This character would never use the word stat.) The little lamb was on the lam…” “Hernando’s Hideaway” (Jerry Ross/Richard Adler) is visually very funny, vocally big for the nature of the song, and the first of many awkward, narrative segues.
Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Burton Lane/Yip Harburg’s “Old Devil Moon,” and Lester Judson/Raymond Taylor’s “I Wanna Be Evil” follow. A burlesque “I Put a Spell On You”(Jay Hawkins ) with terrific, outlaw sax, hip-swinging drum, reverberating bass, and emphatic piano further ignites the hot mama. “You’re ma-ha-hine” Borghesi sings panting at her sax player.
Vocal control is marvelous. The performer soars, warbles, growls, injects a flicker of Betty Boop and occasional tremolo with equal skill. She fearlessly connects to her audience inhabiting sass and style.
Guided by Direction and/or Musical Direction, however, every selection arrives at the same raucous level regardless of lyric intent. The show’s lack of finesse is disappointing with someone of such obvious range and chops. Even brassy, backroom dames are capable of contrast without losing character.
With “Do It Again,” (George Gershwin/ Buddy DeSylvia) Borghesi has received a gift from her former beau. She skittishly opens the box beginning an hysterical bit with its contents. The song is funnier for being low key. Admitting to self-destructive love while clearing her throat and running her tongue in a cheek is swell. Both acting and vocal work.
“Night and Day” (Cole Porter) edges in on tiptoeing piano, turns Latin, and achieves distinction with unexpected clarinet. There’s a bit of a dance. The lady can handle American Songbook with brio. She moves with grace. “Come Rain, Come Shine” (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen) has the flavor of more palatable Merman.
Coaxed back from her exit, Borghesi says she’s done…until piano cue. “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Lew Brown/ Ray Henderson) she shrugs, infectiously happy.
The performer needs a better script. Monologue rambles; what could be witty scatology often overdoes it. A game show sequence wherein an audience member spins The Wheel of Lust doesn’t really fit and takes up too much time. (Kudos to photographer Maryann Lopinto who found the gold ticket beneath her seat and was a good sport on stage.)
There’s no denying the show is entertaining. Leanne Borghesi is a cornucopia of talent. One can’t help but wish she was given more adroit opportunity to shine.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto Photo of Maryann and Leanne by Ian Herman
Leanne Borghesi’s Mood Swings Directed by Nick Minas Brandon Adams- MD/Piano; Jamie Mohamdein-Bass, Don Kelly-Drums, Jim Piela-Sax The Laurie Beechman Theater within West Bank Café
407 West 42nd Street May 29, 2019