Photo Credit: Jeff Harnar
Fancy Meeting You Here: An Evening of Ahrens & Flaherty
Feinstein’s 54 Below
May 29, 2019 – 7pm
On an unseasonably cool evening , Ann Kittredge heated up the season, by delivering what may go down in cabaret history as the perfect musical theater tribute show.
Her show “Fancy Meeting You Here: An Evening of Ahrens & Flaherty” was supremely crafted, well directed, musically masterful, and tastefully executed, solidifying Kittredge not just as an up-and-comer (having won the 2018 MAC award for Best Debut), but as a seasoned pro and an artistic force to be reckoned with.
Having appeared on and off Broadway, Kittredge knows her way around a lyric, and how to craft a song to it’s most musical a dramatic effect. This was evident in everything she sang. What was even more impressive, however, was her delicate handling of this musical theater repertoire, within the more intimate constraints of cabaret. All too often are music theater singers unable to successfully cross over to cabaret due to an over-abundance of “theatrical pizzazz.” An impressive “Berlin-like” fourth-wall keeps the audience at bay, while calling attention to the voice, instead of the lyric. But not so here. Kittredge dives into each lyric with astounding authenticity, all-the-while honoring both the original musical theater intent and the intimacy of the room. This is no easy feat and should be held up as the gold standard of cabaret performance. And then, somewhere during the middle of a song, during a stunning pianissimo, or delicately phrased passage you are struck, as if by lightening, by the voice.
Kittredge possesses a voice as pure and golden as any I have ever heard. And, the sheer technical ability she showed on stage was astounding. A vocal chameleon, Kittredge sang songs written for both women and men with absolute conviction. So much so that in If The World Were Like The Movies (from My Favorite year) one could suspect that the song were in fact originally written for a woman to sing.
This kind of musical precision, in both selection of keys and arrangements can be attributed, I am sure, to the masterful music direction of Alex Rybeck. The evening began with Rybeck at the piano, offering a piano overture from the title song of Ragtime, and immediately continued with a stellar opening medley, sung by Kittredge, which included tunes from Anastasia, Seussical, Once on This Island, Ragtime and Lucky Stiff. This set the bar for the evening quite high, possibly too high for many performers. But Kittredge sailed over it effortlessly.
Of particular note was the trunk song Garden. Here Kittredge wove a delicate tale of a widow at home with her Garden, and memories. Although I was surprised by the placement of this intimate piece so soon in the program, the song is stunning in Kittredge’s voice, and hands.
A flair for comedy was evident in songs like Never Really Knew The Guy (from Bedazzled), and Speaking French, in which Kittredge left the comfort of the stage to coquettishly mill around the wildly enthusiastic audience. And, joined by Marcus Lovett, Kittredge also displayed a refined sensuality in Shut up and Dance (from My Favorite Year, complete with the dance), and The Bend of My Arms (from Dessa Rose).
Nowhere was Kittredge’s mastery more evident than in Back to Before (from Ragtime). Honoring the musical theater character’s circumstance within this song, Kittredge was able to also turn the song on it’s ear with the delicate stress of just one word “choices” (in the line: “I let you make all my choices.”) in this moment the song resonated in a whole new way, suddenly and subtlety bringing it into a modern day context, where a woman’s “right to choose” has been called into question.
The evening came to a crescendo as Director Andrea Marcovicci sharing the stage for a duet At The Beginning (from Anastasia), displaying not only her own ardent voice, but also an innate “in the moment” connection to the lyric.
After what she calls “an extremely long maternity leave,” Ann Kittredge is once again lighting up the stage. Broadway had better rediscover this supremely talented singing-actress, and Kittredge had best find her way back to a cabaret stage very soon. When she does, don’t miss it!