Photo Credit: D. Sabella
Margo Sings Mercer
Don’t Tell Mama
02/08/19 & 03/21/19 – 7PM
In a program of Johnny Mercer lyrics, supported by the ravishing arrangements of Tedd Firth & Phil Hinton, and with Music Director John M. Cook, and Director Jeff Harnar, Margo Brown often charmed the audience at Don’t Tell Mama with a refined elegance that hearkened back to the bygone era of the lyricist himself.
In her first set, an encapsulated medley of Day in And Day Out (m. Rube Bloom), Come Rain or Come Shine (m. Harold Arlen), I’m Old Fashioned (m. Jerome Kern), You Must’ve Been a Beautiful Baby and Jeepers Creepers (m. Harry Warren), Brown set expectations high with this fast-paced, well-delivered seamless arrangement. And, That Old Black Magic (m. Harry Warren) followed, in a hypnotic arrangement, set to a slow dance tempo, which Brown executed with ease.
A professional Ballroom Dancer, Brown exhibits a grace in her movement, indeed her every breath, which works well in this style of music. There is never a look or gesture out of place. However, this graceful physical precision notwithstanding, Brown sometimes lacked the emotional precision that Mercer’s lyrics yearn for. Moon River (m. Henry Mancini) was delivered in a straight-forward fashion that was admirable, but lacked the emotional depth and pathos one associates with this song. And, has the evening progressed, Brown’s connection to lyric seemed to ebb and flow.
With singing, as with dancing, technical precision, although a skill to be mastered, is not a substitute for emotional connection. And while Brown certainly did exhibit a very professional comportment, she did not always sustain the lyric’s dramatic/emotional connection. To be sure the voice is lovely, and Brown has real potential here. There were whole sections of her show that were wonderfully captivating. One For My Baby and This Time The Dream’s On Me (m. Harold Arlen) was beautifully nuanced with a vocal color that only comes from a real lyric connection. But in other songs like Out of This World (m. Harold Arlen) and Dream (w/m, Mercer) a clear point of view seemed to elude her.
A true lyric connection is perhaps the single greatest asset in a cabaret performance, truthfully in any performance. But, especially in cabaret, where the entire style of performance relies upon a person to person connection, devoid of a 4th wall, or context of character within a play. This skill of emotional connection, like any other skill, must be practiced and mastered, so that it is available to the singer at all times. And, just like going to the gym, working out this emotional “muscle” can be fatiguing. By no means is it easy to sustain an emotional connection through an entire song, let alone an entire performance. But that remains the goal.
Brown succeeded in this about 70% of the time. And in the remaining 30% her innate grace and style almost bridged the gap completely. It is no wonder this artist is the winner of Best Debut Show for Broadway World. Certainly, as a debut, this was a very impressive showing. Because this debut was so strong I feel it important to acknowledge what was done really well, AND to encourage further growth from this lovely artist.
Brown reprises this show on March 21st, 2019, and it is certainly worth a look.
Sean Harkness – Guitar
Phil Palombi – Bass