Meg Flather is on a journey. It may not have started with her mother’s death in 2018, but it went into high drive with the transformative event. Outbound Plane is about “necessary endings, failures, and losses that, in time, take you where you need to go.”
A compellingly different arrangement of “Open a New Window” (Jerry Herman) sets the tone. The described action is clearly one of survival not option. In the club, backs straighten, attention sharpens. The performer is in strong voice and fully immersed. Her title song unleashes anger and determination with which she then wrestles during a riveting “Why Can’t I Forget?” (Jeffrey D.Harris/Judy Barton)
“In 1998, I left a marriage…” Flather describes the pain and difficulty of reorientation. Up to that point, she thought she couldn’t live alone. “I put my Abba Gold on the boom box and danced till 2:30 am.” Writing is evocative and intimate. Joan Armatrading’s “Me, Myself, I” follows: I want to be by myself/I came in this world alone/Me myself I…It’s an anthem to personal power. She freeform dances, stomping the jams out. The charged parenthesis is skillfully phrased for optimum effect.
“Patterns” (Richard Maltby/David Shire) offers new awareness in her story. Hand fisted, she looks directly at us (not enough of this). An occasion of childhood fearlessness – “wouldn’t it be amazing if we could capture our most bold moments?…” – precedes the obscure “Verdi Cries” (Natalie Merchant). A Flather show will always challenge.
Two songs about “observed loss,” also well performed, seem less relevant to an empirical history. They lead to a highlight of comic relief, a clever “Keep the Customer Satisfied” (Paul Simon) interspersed with anecdotes about Flather’s work with Home Shopping . The artist is observant and funny.
“I’m a Little Bit Off” (Richard Maltby/David Shire), an apt selection, would be more sympathetic were it not delivered at the high stress level of almost everything else. Flather shares some of the (wise) revelations that have occurred over time.
The heartfelt “Like a Sunday” (her own composition) is dedicated to her mom. Seeringly honest, it ends with a lovely, harmonized round of Dona nobis pacem (Latin for “Grant us peace”). At the piano, MD Tracy Stark offers intermittent back-up vocals throughout, adding texture and pith.
Alan Menken/Tim Rice’s “A Change in Me” arrives exhilarated. Flather seems to palpably inflate with fresh outlook. “Cockeyed Optimist” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein) is the cherry on top. Though vulnerability remains apparent and the trip continues, it’s a brave attitude. The show is real.
Except for the need to vary presentation of wrought material, Lennie Watts’ direction serves the performer well.
Photos by Jeff Harnar
Meg Flather: Outbound Plane
Tracy Stark-Musical Director/Vocal Back-Up/Piano
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
July 28, 2019
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