Sharon McNight at Don’t Tell Mama

Sharon McNight has some miles on her, but as Jimmy Durante might say, they’re “cherce.” The vocalist’s powerful, sandpaper delivery is expertly controlled. She knows what she has and how best to employ it. Phrasing is spot on in the service of the song. McNight’s a storyteller. Attitude is assertive and a dash bawdy. A real broad.

“Meantime” (Al Stillman/Robert Allen) sashays in on a vaudeville arrangement. Fran Landesman/ Bob Dorough’s “Small day” (as opposed to the expression ‘big day’) is an eclectic choice and good. McNight shouts, wails, whispers, and wah-wahs with skill. Even ba-dump-dump jokes land. In the same spirit, Amanda McBroom’s dark, eloquent “One of These Days” bemoans “The paper’s full of rage/The milk inside the coffee is at Camembert stage.” With “The demons come out,” McNight hunches over like Renfield (Dracula’s servant) swinging a clawed hand, pissed off and letting it fly.

“Desperado” (Glenn Frey) is a bit big for the lyric, but full of feeling. Long, warbled notes sound as if on horseback. “City of New Orleans” (Steve Goodman) bounces in on foot-tapping rhythm. “Good morning, America,” she sings with a Cheshire Cat grin. “Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle,” she sings, wide-eyed and reaching. Momentum is infectious.

Next comes “Everybody’s Girl” (John Kander/Fred Ebb from Steel Pier) introduced as tribute to the subject of McNight’s incipient Mae West show. It’s easy to see telltale signs of West and, oh, wait for the bull joke, a gem! Randy Newman’s “Guilty” is a high spot. “One of these da-ya-yay-yaze,” she sings massaging the word. Piano is hard and crisp, supporting every pumped up verse.

“Bacon” (Liz McNamara) begins fists on hips with “Animals are people too…” The singer is evangelically committed to a meatless diet except “b-b-b-b-bAcon!” about which she rhapsodizes as if sex. “I’d kill a porker with my own bare hands,” she growls grabbing the mic stand. A scene in one. Craig Carnelia’s lovely “Kid Inside” which McNight says makes her cry alas arrives too big to affect.

“I’ve Loved” (Billy Joel) brings back the storyteller and showcases Ian Herman’s skills with, here, geysers of melody robust as the Bellagio fountains. “Your Sweet and Shy” (Nan O’Bryne), another iconoclastic selection, is performed demonstrating Hula gestures with which McNight is eminently graceful. (How we got to the islands from Texas is a mystery.) We’re lead though a sing-along chorus. Spirits rise. McNight is FUN.

Sharon McNight at Don’t Tell Mama
MD/Piano- Ian Herman

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About Alix Cohen (1751 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.