Photo Credit- Suzanne Fiore
The House That Built Me
The Laurie Beechman
June 16, 2019
Dawn Derow’s show at The Laurie Beechman Theatre on Father’s Day June 16th was very much a tribute to her father/ family and the strong roots they gave her emotionally and musically. In her carefully crafted, seamless performance she tells stories of growing up on Cape Cod and how the music she listened to helped create the multifaceted performer we witnessed that day.
As a singer, Derow can handle many styles. Derow can move between the classical world , Broadway, folk and contemporary artists with ease. She introduced the band as the “carpenters” who helped build the (musical) house she dwelt in. They included music director and pianist Matt Baker, Peter Calo on guitar and on bass, Steve Doyle. And, accomplished performer, and 2019 MAC Award winning Director, Jeff Harnar served as her director.
Derow began the set with three songs in the folk/rock style: John Mayer’s Daughters, Miranda Lambert’s The House That Built Me and two versions of Our House, one by Graham Nash and the other by rock group Madness (Chris Foreman and Cathal Smith). Derow joined the band on guitar for some of the songs. Our House had a jazzy feel which Derow stepped into effortlessly. Her guitarist and bass player joined her on vocals and added lovely layers to the musical picture. Derow introduced the classic Old Cape Cod (Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, Allan Jeffrey) with a mention of some of the romantic beaches of the Cape such as First Encounter Beach. Derow sat stage left on a stool as she completely changed gears and found the relaxed, dreamy quality of the song in her presentation and voice. Moving back to more of the folk realm, Derow sang Dar Williams’ When I Was A Boy. This was one of the only pieces I found a little hard to follow but I don’t think it had anything to do with Derow’s interpretation. The song is complex and moves between ideas and images quite often (like life). It also brought another layer to the standard leading lady image in which an artist like Derow would be pegged.
Derow contrasted cultural stereotypes again in Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro and Mambo Italiano (Bob Merril). Derow sang the beginning of the aria in her upper register. I wanted to hear more but she then put on apron and introduced the Italian apron dance she was about to do (she is 3/4 Italian).This was a high point in the set. No longer the prim and proper soprano, Derow sang in her powerful chest voice collecting 10’s and 20’s from the audience who completely enjoyed the moment. The mood mellowed as Derow took out her guitar to play Someday Soon (Ian Tyson) which Judy Collins, another important influence on Derow, made famous.
The stories Derow peppered throughout the evening of growing up on the Cape recreated various pivotal moments in her development. When she turned 18- she threw her own party for all of her high school friends in the empty house her parents were in the process of selling. This story segued perfectly into Make Your Own Party (Marcy Heisler, Zina Goldrich). Even though she and her friends were busted by her father she remained glad she had done it.
Bringing out vintage records of the great Broadway shows that inspired the young artist. Derow moved into the Broadway section of the performance. The music of Rogers and Hammerstein was highly represented here. Derow and her pianist Matt Baker sang People Will Say We’re In Love from Oklahoma (Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rogers), The Broad’s way Medley (arranged by Matt Baker, Jeff Harnar and Dawn Derow) and My Little Girl from the Soliloquy in Carousel (Rogers and Hammerstein). The female perspective was portrayed quite effectively in the well crafted medley which featured more songs by Rogers and Hammerstein as well as the music of Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Marvin Hamlisch, Claude-Michel Schoenberg, Jule Styne and John Kander.
The Broadway section was followed by Barbies from the rocker Pink’s Beautiful Trauma album, a poignant song about wanting to go back to one’s childhood self. She then sang a full operatic aria, Puccini’s Che Il Bel Sogno Di Doretta from La Rondine. Sung at the side of the stage to a recorded piano, we could see the early training Derow had which is at the root of her fine singing technique.
The running theme of being a Daddy’s girl came up again in They Don’t Make Em Like Daddy Anymore (Lorreta Lynn) with alternate lyrics by Richard Eisenberg to include images of Cape Cod, like her Dad’s restaurant, The Lighthouse. As the performance was coming to an end, Derow thanked her audience- the staff of her new home at The Laurie Beechman and of course her parents who were present in the audience- front and center. The anthem she sang next- If We Only Have Love (Mort Shuman, Eric Blau and Jacques Brel) was a part of the fabric of her family as her parents sang it when dating. She ended the evening with Billy Joel’s You’re My Home. Finishing the song on a climactic note, we got the sense that Derow could easily go on singing. Judging from the standing ovation she received, she clearly has an audience.