Rodgers & Hammerstein 2021
Don’t Tell Mama
September 26, 2021
By Conor Weiss
Rehearsal for Meg Flather’s new show, Rodgers & Hammerstein 2021 started 2 days before the world shut down, and after the long wait for live performances to start again, the audience was not disappointed – far from it!
Between each well selected song, Flather treated her audience to heartfelt stories and interesting facts about both Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and the “Rodgers & Hammerstein” that we thought we knew. She addressed the themes and subjects of their musicals, some, universal and some unusual (for the time they were written at least), taking us on an emotional journey that, although familiar, seemed very new at times.
Many of the familiar songs in this show were presented differently than we are accustomed to hearing or experiencing them. Songs like Cockeyed Optimist, and People Will Say We’re In Love; usually done as fun, little “ditties” take on a whole different meaning in her delivery and Tracy Stark’s arrangements. The vulnerability and wonder of youth in Cockeyed Optimist shine through in both Stark’s ballad-like arrangement and Flather’s excited, yet soft, vulnerable delivery. Whether it be the danger of being found in an interracial relationship or the love between classes of people that weren’t “supposed” to be together, People Will Say We’re In Love took on an urgency of forbidden love with just a few bars of We Kiss In The Shadows as the lead-in. And, rather than the usual comedic, if somewhat shaming tone, that accompanies I Can’t Say No, there was a picture of young and unapologetic sexuality, and sensuality mixed with an adolescent wonder, proving that when done as a ballad, one is more inclined to think about the words, and what is being shared.
The songs that were written for male characters in their shows were not left out (nor were the pronouns changed), and again, the arrangements and the delivery brought the audience on an unexpected ride. In A Puzzlement from “The King and I” and Lonely Room from “Oklahoma” the audience witnessed the struggle between an otherwise powerful man and the things he can’t necessarily control, and the isolation of the outwardly strong guy as he wrestles with feelings that are hidden. In both songs, as performed by this powerful woman, the deeper fears and passions, the frustrations, of these powerful men are put front and center.
Throughout the show, every song served up a new a new insight, a new perspective, not commonly associated with the material. Flather delivered a deeply TRUTHFUL , emotional journey in this show and generously let us join her for the ride. As she says in the show, the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein “Really make you feel your feelings.” Of course it helps when you have Meg Flather’s singing, Tracy Stark’s Arrangements and the direction of Lennie Watts.
Flather, Stark, and Watts return to Don’t Tell Mama with two more opportunities to see Rodgers & Hammersteing 2021 – Nov 17 & 21 at 6pm.