Love me love me love me/Say you do/Let me fly away/With you…sings Marieann Meringolo, lyrics emerging like molasses. All in black, arms at her sides, gravitas pervades. The vocalist is an authoritative figure. Control is eminent. Her voice takes flight. (“Wild is The Wind”- Dmitri Tiomkin/Ned Washington)
Having “a lot of time” on her hands, Meringolo has given considerable thought to love. She divides it into three categories 1. Attraction. 2. Falling in Love. And 3. Unconditional Love. (#3 hardly a given.) When it doesn’t work, she says, there’s “anger, denial, and depression,” in fact, the three stages of grief. Construct is derivative. More importantly, the show itself doesn’t follow her blueprint.
“What is This Thing Called Love?” arrives as serious as its predecessor. If it’s meant to indicate attraction, where’s the hope anticipation, excitement? The turbulent last note rises like a geyser. Her vocal instrument is finely honed. “Falling Slowly” in a lovely vocal duet with Doyle Newmeyer, offers rich harmony and an aptly floaty feel, but the performer appears to be in pain. “Crazy Love” (Alan Rich/David Lasley/Robin B. Lerner/Marsha Malamet) is a melodic howl, “Unusual Way” (Maury Yeston), with poignant bowed bass, full of angst, “In the Winter” (Janis Ian) dour. The evening is almost unrelentlingly melancholy and/or angry.
One welcome exception, Meringolo’s comic interpretation of “It Must Be Him” (Gilbert Becaud/Maurice Vidalin/ Mack David), finds her mugging, cell phone in hand. “I liked to play hard to get,” she tells us. “I gave someone my phone number instead of asking for theirs. It was tragic.” This is the only time during her show she addresses audience members, leaning out, pulling us in. It works, of course. Alas, the artist chooses to use an awkward “you” intermittently replacing the lyric pronoun “him.” It isn’t until the evening’s encore, “Fifty Per Cent” (Billy Goldenberg/Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman), that she replaces “him” with the personally relevant “her.”
Every song is entirely or becomes an eleven o’clock number, while only two seem to inspire it: “Love Makes the Changes” (Michel LeGrand/Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman) is delivered as southern blues with a slip/sliding vocal and Newmeyer’s honky-tonk piano; Meringolo’s familiar “I Am Blessed” (Marsha Malamet/ Mark Mueller) remains expansive while deeply sincere. There’s simply no need for the vocalist to consistently exhibit her prowess this way. Clearly she’s capable of taking it down. With no relief, obvious talent is weighed down and the show feels long.
Director Will Nunziata
Photos by Stephen Hanks
Marieann Meringolo: Shades of Love
MD/Arranger/Pianist- Doyle Newmeyer Bass- Boots Maleson Director- Will Nunziata