I feel lucky, I feel lucky, yeah/No Professor Doom gonna stand in my way/Mmm, I feel lucky today… Mary Chapin Carpenter’s wry, against-the-odds optimism, is in itself a portrait of Meg Flather. The artist personifies charisma powered by authenticity, a heady combination. She so inhabits songs, they arrive as in-one scenarios.
This 23 year-old show first revived in Stephen Hanks’ estimable Greatest Hits series last year, couldn’t feel more fresh. Eclectic material may have originated in the 1980s, but sentiments are timeless. Flather imbues the evening with musical and emotional backbone, making it up front and personal. She tells us the stories have “come true off stage” since initial selection, peppering performance with just enough biographical snippets, both amusing and moving, to support and enhance.
Sequence is well thought out. After the Carpenter, we hear “Once In a Very Blue Moon” (Patrick Alger/Eugene Levine) I found your letter in my mailbox today/You were just checkin’ if I was okay…The song arrives lightly exiting in a stage whisper with slight fist pump. It’s never, however, tenuous.
“Between my divorce and engagement, let’s just say a little experimenting took place” leads to “Soliloquy At 5 am in the Holiday Inn 1/70” (John Kroner/Gary Gardner) which is hysterical. There isn’t a woman in the room-or perhaps a man-who can’t empathize with the character’s madly conflicting feelings, impatient for dawn, in bed with a stranger. Flather leans around her stool physically embodying restlessness and discomfort. She doesn’t gesture, she presents. Few vocalists could do this justice. Later Don Tucker’s nonsense “French Song” is equally funny in its oblivious earnestness, completely without context.
Flather is effective at both porcelain sharing and meaty dynamism. “Mr.Tanner”(Harry Chapin) stills the room with poignancy. “Where Have You Been?” (Don Henry/Jon Vezner) she asks as an Alzheimer’s stricken wife, married 60 years, of her visiting husband. With a little vocal quiver on ‘been’ and a heart seemingly as open as her palms, the artist actually elicits quiet gasps.
A pristine rendition of “Amsterdam” (Janis Ian) employs folk-like tonality. It’s a bicycle ride, partly on cobblestones: And the taste of the kiss/And your graceful goodbye/You lied, goodbye/Goodbye, goodbye. “In France They Kiss On Main Street” (Joni Mitchell), a vocal glass mountain of octave changes, switchbacks and difficult phrasing, is scaled with pith and grace.
“Days of the Waltz” (Jacques Brel) begins in music box mode, slowly gathering its author’s signature momentum. Flather searches and soars without stress, her arms sometimes whirling as if of their own volition. Enunciation is perfect. The song ends like a snuffed candle.
“Emotionally I’m still out of college, living in Hell’s Kitchen with a cat-there’s a man there now…” We close with “Leave It Like It Is” (David Wilcox), a wise and droll song that encourages living outside the lines.
Paul Greenwood is, as ever, fulsome, versatile, and deft; John Mettam’s percussion is symbiotic.
Director Lennie Watts’ has done a splendid job of spotlighting the performer’s potent talent, helming a well paced, infectiously entertaining piece.
Note: As no photos were taken here, earlier shots of the same show are utilized
Musical Director/Piano-Paul Greenwood
Director- Lennie Watts
Don’t Tell Mama
Additional Shows: March 7 and April 4, 2016. GO!