Lisa Viggiano undoubtedly chose Jane Olivor in part because their voices are similar, but also because she thinks of the artist’s oeuvre as having healing qualities (she notes its popularity during the AIDS crisis)- something we need again now. Performance is heartfelt and notably inclusive. This is a vocalist who looks at her audience and shares. Material includes songs Olivor wrote and others she recorded. A disclaimer tells us that only the iconoclastic “Some Enchanted Evening” repeats the original arrangement and style. That excellent rendition arrives melancholy, swelling slightly as memory paints a picture.
Half way through the evening, Viggiano tells us a story about the man she almost married and the man she did. Ronnie Mack’s “He’s So Fine” is woven through like golden threads. It’s honest, humorous, and empathetic. Brava. (And to her director.) The show takes flight from there.
“The Last Time I Felt Like This” (Marvin Hamlisch/Alan and Marilyn Bergman) is here interpreted as a parent singing to her cradled newborn. (Viggiano’s hands are expressive throughout as if music and feeling need an additional exit .) Her son is, in fact, in the audience. A tear wells. The song emerges beautifully understated and real. Tiptoeing piano seems like dappled sun.
Rarely heard, “The Hardest Part of Love” (Stephen Schwartz) continues in the same vein: “But you cannot close the acorn/Once the oak begins to grow/And you cannot close your heart/To what it fears and needs to know:/That the hardest part of love/Is the letting go.” The vocalist’s commitment is all encompassing. She’s in awe of the child. Long phrases fan out. A last “love” is exhaled.
The creative melding of “Song of Bernadette” (Leonard Cohen/Jennifer Warnes/Billy Elliot), John Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in C Major, and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin” takes us on a journey. Bernadette floats on resonant, intermittent chords. We get a glimpse of the self-avowed “good Catholic girl.” “Come gather ’round people wherever you roam…,”at first recited, then sung, arrives simultaneous to the delicate Bach. With careful pacing, melodies surprisingly work together. Contrast of mood is inspired. Viggiano bends forward arms out. “I just want to hold you” (from Bernadette) bookends.
The show closes with “Better Days” (Carol Bayer Sager/Melissa Manchester) delivered as an anthem. The performer’s optimism is stubborn, determined.
With the exception of Adam Mitchell’s “French Waltz”, which is lovely, and “Some Enchanted Evening,” part one is less successful. Arrangements sound too much alike. Nor do I understand the performer’s smile during several sad songs. “One More Ride on The Merry Go Round” is a song of pathos. (Neil Sedaka/ Howard Greenfield)
Lisa Viggiano is immensely likeable. Vocals arrive with clarity and control. Transitions are smooth. The artist clearly derives great pleasure from performing. Much in this show is imaginative and fresh. I look forward to the next one.
Lisa Viggiano Sings The Jane Olivor Songbook
Yasuhiko Fukuoka – Musical Director
Mark Nadler – Director
Repeated On March 18, 2023
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46 Street