Photo Credit: Gen Nishino
At 4’11’’ and 90 lbs soaking wet, Andrea Bell Wolff is a powerhouse. And, the Broadway veteran turned rocker chick, best known for the role of Ermengarde, opposite Carol Channing, in Hello Dolly, presented a very eclectic evening of rock standards, with the heart of a true theatrical story-teller.
Entering the chic Green Room 42 with a down-tempo version of Everybody Wants to Rule The World (Orzabel, Stanley, Hughes), and aided by Jude Obermüller’s arrangement of this song (complete with hypnotic pedal-tone), Bell Wolff enveloped the audience in her hybrid world of Broadway/Rock. And, what a comfy world it was.
This reimagining of classic rock tunes, through a Broadway/cabaret sensibility is not easily accomplished. The artist must know not only themselves, and their voice, but also their audience, walking a fine tightrope between believability and entertainment. Luckily Bell Wolff was able to walk that tightrope, without a net, and never missed a step. The songs fit her voice like a glove. And, her personalization of the each song made even the purest cabaret devoteé sit up and take notice.
Too Much Time On My Hands (Tommy Shaw) became a masterful depiction of woman mind-numbingly flipping channels between Soap Opera and Political News, (and was never more so apropos). And, Yvette (Song Of Fraternization) (Duke Special, Tony Kushner), when coupled with Somewhere Only We Know (Tim Rice-Oxley) became one haunting Vietnam War story that was beautifully paced and heart-felt.
Of particular note was Bell Wolff’s rendition of Landslide (Stevie Nicks), with the amazing and always musical, Sean Harkness, on Guitar. And Sia’s Death By Chocolate, in a whole new arrangement by Obermüller. Perhaps next time Bell Wolff will treat us to an entire evening of Stevie Nicks, as this was one of the most satisfying moments of the evening.
If there is a criticism to be made, it would be in the patter, between songs, which seemed a bit too off-the-cuff, at times meandering, and in one instance, even jarring. This made the entrance into some songs, and even the through-line of the show, hard to discern. A seasoned pro as Bell Wolff would serve herself better to rehearse as much what she says, as what she sings. And, although the “mini Orchestra” playing behind her was a treat to hear, I found it also unnecessary, especially given the premise of the show, to bring these rock standards into more intimate focus.
The evening ended with David Bowie’s Changes, from which the title of her show “I Can’t Trace Time” originates. Again, in this laid back, almost folk-rock genre, Bell Wolff does not disappoint. It seems the old adage is true. Good things really do come in small packages.
Music Director/Arranger, Piano: Jude Obermüller
Violin: Delaney Stöckli
Cello: Maureen Kelly
Guitar: Megan Talay
Bass: Georgia Weber
Percussion: Doug Hinrichs
Directed by Dan Ruth