Photo Credit: Takako Harkness
Amy Beth Williams’ show “GREAT Ladies, GREAT Songs” featured a jam-packed 27 songs (more than double of most cabaret shows). But this show flew by, came in at just over an hour, and made me want to stay for more.
Williams played to a small but mighty house, as if we were at a sold- out concert in a much bigger venue. Every single song was delivered with a clear point of view of how and why each singer being featured had inspired her to sing. It was clear in her vocals and performance that she could rival any of these great ladies. She also brought a joy to stage that made me sit up and think, “This gal really wants to entertain me!”
Williams is an elegant, classy gal with a “broads” energy and voice. She reminds me of the best chick singers fronting big bands in the 1940’s which makes the show all-the-more “in her bones”. This is where she lives, I suspect. When she was funny…she was really, really funny and she presented some of the best, not often done, funny tunes in this program. Williams’ sense of humor made me want to be her best friend, a quality oh so necessary in the world of cabaret.
Although I don’t normally list all the songs in any given show, as I won’t ruin the joy of your sitting there and taking in this beautifully scripted, skillfully directed (Tanya Moberly), fast-paced, incredibly played (MD: Ian Herman, Bass: Ritt Henn & Drums: Don Kelly) show, celebrating Great Ladies like: Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Eydie Gorme, Julie London, Dusty Springfield, Julie Wilson, Marilyn Maye and more! I will list a few songs here, focusing on this great lady, in an effort to entice each of you to make a reservation to see her next show on Wednesday, February 20th at 7:00 at Don’t Tell Mama.
When she sang “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten” (Clive Westlake) with sensational bowing (arco) by Ritt Henn, I literally got goose-flesh! This is a lady that clearly knows who she’s singing to and what she’s singing about! In “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (Jerome Kern & Otto Harbach), her clear point of view transformed her. She was this socialite woman who soldiers on through a dreaded evening get-together after a break up, trying to maintain as much dignity as possible as friends pry into her life. She even did one of Marilyn Maye’s signature tunes with her own placement, totally making the song her own, beyond comparison to Miss Maye. She owned the tune in her own energy, impressive acting, and unique vocals.
Of Special Note are Ian Herman’s arrangements. One of the many highlights was the way-up version of “The Sweetest Sounds” (Richard Rogers), with a double-time feel in the music and Williams singing “a tempo.” Herman’s arrangement was awesome! And, although there are few singers could do justice to that arrangement…Williams did!
In a show filled with so many special moments, her tour du force was her 11:00 number, after which I cried and leapt to my feet with several audience members. This one number alone was worth her cover charge! Want to know what it was? This is my teaser and challenge to you. GO SEE HER SHOW!
As with all Tanya Moberly directed projects, the show flowed at a fast pace with minimal patter and what I call “mini-dramas” by their clever clustering of tunes creating sections in the show that somehow all come full circle. In a show meant to pay tribute to “The Great Ladies” it also, wonderfully, became Williams’ story of how she came to be the great lady and singer that she is today. Separate from the great singing and music, it was also a beautifully crafted show, and completely relate-able, with a commonality that led directly from the great ladies featured, to Williams herself, and then to the audience. The experience was immersive and universal.
What was I thinking when I left the room? GREAT Lady, GREAT Songs!
Amy Beth Williams
GREAT Ladies, GREAT Songs
Wednesday, February 20th @ 7:00 pm
Don’t Tell Mama – 343 W. 46th Street
Reservations: 212-757-0788 (after 4:00 pm)_or online at: www.donttellmamanyc.com
$20 Cover Charge ($15 MAC / Wagner / Salon) – 2 drink minimum