Photo Credit: Helane Blumfield

Roberta Feldhusen
Who’s That Woman?
Don’t Tell Mama
Sunday, November 10th @ 4:00 pm

Opening with a robust medley of “But Alive/Who’s that Woman/No Time At all” (L. Adams / C. Strouse – S. Sondheim – S. Schwartz), Ms. Feldhusen took the stage for her cabaret debut with a vengeance and showed the audience that she has chops to spare!

With Lennie Watts and Wendy Russell on back-ups, one of my favorite spots in the show was the Doo Wop medley.  Everyone, including Music Director, Tracy Stark were allowed to shine in mini solos. What fun! The blend and the harmonies of the 4 voices was fantastic!

Another fun moment at the top of the show was the “Metropolitan Scat” (M. Duff & C. Coons). Going forward I would love to see Ms. Feldhusen have even more fun with the actual scat part of this piece. Yes, it’s funny and part of the joke to play it like a classical singer trying to be hip by scatting but it either has to be a much better or a much worse scat to play the way it was intended. Even if one is not a scatter, one should appear comfortable doing it… especially when the choice is to play the funnier “bad scatter” persona. Her rendition of the hysterical, “What did You Do to Your Face” (S. Werner) was perfection! She has a really good flair for comedy.

Ms. Feldhusen transitioned beautifully to an emotionally placed song what I don’t want to give away, where I really felt her completely in it. She then brought up her husband, Roy Feldhusen, for an adorable section that on this particular evening almost seemed to backfire. In such a fun and loving spot, it didn’t feel as if there was a romantic connection between them.

The next two tunes were oddly placed, given the patter before them, a story about her Grandmother and her Aunt Lenny, preceded by “The Folks Who Lived on the Hill” (Kern/Hammerstein) and “What a Funny Boy” (A. Rybeck). If  those songs had been delivered with no patter right after Roy left the stage, it would have made perfect sense. But, it remained unclear where the stories came from or how they fit with these two beautifully sung tunes.

“The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress” (J. Webb) was again, beautifully delivered, but with no explanation.  So it’s coming out of “What a Funny Boy” was disorienting. All of this is an easy fix with the right set up, making sure that all patter and lyrics tell the same story and have an inevitable connection to each other. She regained her momentum and through-line with a set up about her daughter into a “mom” song.

With all debut shows there is a learning curve. As one discovers more about this genre of performance, it becomes easier to trust in one’s own ability and not strive to prove one’s worth. In other words, less is more. This show was packed full, and consequently, also a bit too long (it came in at about 1:18)! There were 15 song spots, but Feldhusen sang five big medleys, And, with five medleys, it felt like the equivalent of 23 songs, a lot for any artist, and for any audience. There is no need throw everything into a debut show. Edit, edit, edit. Artists must ask themselves what is really important here? What do I absolutely need to set up this next song? There will be other shows. Let a good song do it’s job. Time the show inclusive of patter and always leave them wanting more! At the same time, remember to touch base here and there with the theme. Feldhusen’s title Who’s That Woman was provocative, and the question remains, who IS that woman? Quoting the show “It’s NOT where you start, it’s where you finish.”

Roberta Feldhusen has a lot to offer. It is my hope that she keeps growing and learning, experimenting and listening to the amazing team she’s hired to lead her to greater work each time she steps on stage. Welcome!