Photo Credit: Dan Lane Williams
Mary Elizabeth Micari
Lady In Black 2
It was a dark and stormy night as I made my way to Mary-Elizabeth Micari’s Halloween show at Pangea. I was ready for her nostalgic walk through 90’s music and self discovery as she journeyed towards a life of witchcraft.
As the lights faded, the band, led by Tracy Stark on piano, with John DiNello on percussion and Richard Spendio on classical harp, got right to work setting a spooky tone as Micari made her way to the stage and jumped right into her opening number, All Souls Night (Loreena McKennitt). The spirits may have indeed been with her as she seemed a bit distracted at first, but the applause for her first number seem to center her and she welcomed us with a warm and lovely energy.
She began to read from a journal she had kept in the 90’s from a time when she was starting to feel old, at the ripe age of 33. It was these comical realizations of her former self that made her so relatable. Her stories caught us up on the life of an old friend.
In her second number she displayed more gusto and confidence as she sang a completely re-imagined version of Black Hole Sun (Chris Cornell). Tracy Stark’s arrangement and the collaboration of the two women, took a song that is so well-known as a piece of our collective consciousness, jazzed it up, and brilliantly reinvented it, making it their own.
Micari then continued on with reading from her journals. She revealed her vulnerability as she relayed stories of her strained marriage and feeling lost in the world, feeling disliked and misunderstood by her family, her discovery of witchcraft and paganism, and the curiosity which led her to true self discovery and internal growth. With a deep emotional connection to her stories she became a conduit between her past and our present.
Building powerfully with songs like In the Air (Phil Collins) and Hey Jupiter (Tori Amos) and emotional moments with songs like Sister Moon (Gordon Sumner) and You Learn (Alanis Morissette), Micari displayed an authentic connection to both lyric and music. Her ability to transcend the art of cabaret came in one of my favorite moments in which she completely re-imagined Ace of Base’s The Sign (Buddha, Joker, Jenny Berggren, Malin Berggren). Gifting the audience with a new and re-imagined treatment of a well known song is, at it’s very core, the skill reserved for the most talented cabaret artists. Stark and Micari make this look easy, when it is not.
Her star moment, however, came in the form of a song called Deity (Wendy Rule). Here she laid bare her soul. Having gone through pain and self-loathing, and finding a way to connect to herself, and the universe around her, she released all that would hinder her. As the song progressed, she became more fully herself. And, in the best of what cabaret has to offer, she gave herself to the moment, to the song, and to her audience. This was truly the kind of moment one hopes for in any cabaret show. Micari is an inspiration, and teaches the lessons of learning from your life and following your heart and curiosity.
My only request from this performer would be that she might memorize her journal entries so she wouldn’t have to spend so much time looking down at the book. We still connected with her, but it felt almost like a screen door was closed between us whenever she was reading.
On the whole, Micari is an original. I would enjoy seeing a lot more of her in the future. Inspired performances throughout the evening by the band gave the evening a polish and made it feel as if they had been playing together for many years. And, an exceptional mention should be made for Stark’s musical arrangements that transformed songs we’ve heard 100 times into what seemed like brand new pieces. Very well done.