At the culmination of NYC Pride week, four 2017 MAC Award nominated vocalists: Celia Berk, Sally Darling, Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano and the year’s winner, Meg Flather, gathered at Don’t Tell Mama to present songs that reflected the times and title theme. Mutual admiration was pronounced. The concert benefited Trinity place Shelter LGBTQ Youth Programs.
Effectively opening off stage with Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run”, each vocalist introduced the next in a medley of songs rife with hopeful anticipation. (Except for the Gershwins’ “By Strauss.”) The room’s collective mood seemed to swell.
Josephine Sanges; Sally Darling
Josephine Sanges’ waltzy “Pure Imagination” (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley) was joyfully sincere. Phrasing emerged like longlined skating. Even scat glided…twirled and giggled. An understated, utterly sympathetic “Take Me to The World” showed a different aspect of the vocalist’s interpretive talent. (Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose) Hands at her sides, looking into our eyes, Sanges reached the audience. In complete contrast, John M. Cook’s original, unexpected arrangement of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” (Harold Arlen/ E.Y. Yip Harburg) …Oh we oh, huh oh oh…with snippets of other songs from The Wizard of Oz, brought out the jazz baby in full flower.
Sally Darling offered Noel Coward’s “20th Century Blues” in apt, deadpan tandem with “Strange Days” (Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman.) Darling is all vibrato, enunciating like an actress. …If you don’t like where we’re going/Honey, grab an oar and row…she sang. Right on. Kander & Ebb’s “What Would You Do?” and Sondheim’s awkward “Ah, But Underneath” were committed but confined-the performer shut out her audience.
Celia Berk; Meg Flather
Don Tucker’s very funny “French Song” was enacted by Meg Flather with flair. To hear the wry, ersatz French ride that lovely voice was a study in successful opposites. “Hush, Hush Hush”, a delicate song I found obscure out of context and “If” (Paula Cole/David Gates), riding rapid, staccato piano in opposition to lyrics followed. Flather’s own, MAC Winning number “Hold On Tight” (additional music John Mettam) bubbled over with good advice…Hold on tight/Breathe it in/Clear the mind of tomorrow…Sentiments were savored; octaves seamlessly shifted like tickling. Warmth flowed. With this last song, Flather looked back at her fans.
Despite a cold that added Lauren Bacall coloring to vocals, Celia Berk gave fine performances utilizing expressive parlando, innate skill with phrasing, and unabashed accessibility to the audience. Berk sang affectionate, well rendered geography songs with minimal, selective gestures. Her version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sand”, a highlight, was like watching musical monologue- eloquent, nuanced, and palpably fostered by an appealing ssss.
Lisa Viggiano swung two American Songbook numbers, after which she shifted gears to offer Tim Di Pasqua’s “Three’s A Charm”, written as outreach to GLBT’s anti-bullying campaign. The song was one of that were two simple, stirring, and emphatically on target. ….One-feeling lighter/Two-getting brighter/Three-feeling better…Viggiano sang wholeheartedly in the first verse. The audience provided vocal counting the second lilting time around. It felt like a benignly lead mantra.
The second of these heady numbers, performed by the company, was Ann Hampton Callaway/Michele Brourman’s “Love and Let Love,” …No one tells the sun not to shine/Or tells a flower not to grow…Trust the hand that made us/Just the way we are…Five voices melodically rose in moving support of brother/sisterhood that should’ve been piped over Times Square.
In my opinion, too many numbers did not fulfill the show’s stated intention. Though these were no less enjoyable, a premise had been set. Overall, the concert was entertaining and sometimes inspiring. Jeff Harnar’s unfussy, evocative Direction added craft and style.
This should be an annual event.
Opening Photo: Left to right Celia Berk, Josephine Sanges, Sally Darling, Meg Flather, Lisa Viggiano
2017 MAC Cabaret Award-Nominated Vocalists
A Benefit for Trinity place Shelter LGBTQ Youth Programs
With thanks to Sidney Meyer for donating the venue
Musical Director John M. Cook
Director- Jeff Harnar
Don’t Tell Mama June 25, 2017