Photo Credit: courtesy of Rosemary Loar
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie
Don’t Tell Mama
October 12, 2019, 5pm
In an era when so many Broadway voices sound as if they were canned at the same central cannery, Rosemary Loar stands out as refreshingly and wonderfully idiosyncratic .
In her newest cabaret show “Everything’s Coming Up Rosie,” Loar, a Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional-theatre veteran, revisited some of the classic roles she’s played over the years, and the Broadway standards associated with those roles, showcasing her voice’s many and surprising colors. Even more, Loar showcased her own star quality—the unforced expressivity that incorporates her entire being, and which imbues everything she does with the unique flavor of … Rosemary.
Loar has technique to burn: she opened with a Blossom Deariesque take on Lullaby of Broadway (Al Dubin, Harry Warren), sweet and breathy over pianist Frank Ponzio’s striding bass; next thing I knew, she was inhabiting Mama Rose in “Gypsy’s” Act 1 closer, exhorting the audience with pointed finger and a ringing belt; then she spat out the quick-fire lyrics to Tim Rice’s proto-rap from “Chess,” One Night In Bangkok (Rice, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus); then showed off her high E in Think of Me from “Phantom of the Opera” (Charles Hart, Andrew Lloyd Webber).
Many of Loar’s backstage anecdotes involved technique as well. There was the story of Loar’s audition for “Forty-Second Street,” after a grand total of six months of tap lessons. She was not cast. Undeterred, she went home, put on a bathing suit, and spent the next three months tapping madly in her living room. When she auditioned a second time, she got the part—mostly, the choreographer admitted, because of the amazing improvement in her tap technique in such a short time. Similarly, she blithely claimed a high E when auditioning for a concert version of “Phantom.” She then had to dash to her vocal coach, who had Loar jumping on a trampoline to coax out the elusive note. Following the performance—which she nailed—Loar needed a martini to recover from the stress of it.
And yet technique is the last thing one is aware of when Loar is onstage. Loar’s technique is the silent, invisible means to the end of expressing her material from the inside out. Like Merman or Angela Lansbury, Loar never disappears into a role, or a song; rather, she lives it, inhabits it, gives it flesh. And like those greats, the life she gives it is unmistakably and inimitably her own.
That is way it is such a pleasure to see Loar attack more familiar material than her usual, more cutting-edge fare—it gives one the opportunity to appreciate what a fine and original artist she is. Who does Lullaby of Broadway as an actual lullaby? Sondheim’s Broadway Baby, became, in Loar’s hands, sheer autobiography. Loar referenced the equally sui generis Liza Minnelli in her patter for Shine It On (from Kander & Ebb’s “The Act”), then proceeded to give a performance that swept away any thought of Minnelli, simply by embodying the song with the full richness of her unique self.
There was only one moment in the show when Loar inadvertently revealed her own technique, during the 11 0’clock number from “Mame” (Jerry Herman), If He Walked Into My Life. This lament, of a woman who has lost the love of her life (in Mame’s case, her nephew), is one of the textbook great 11 o’clockers. During the bridge, Loar’s color changed, emotions may have gotten the better of her, and she blanked on the remaining lyrics. But, like the pro that she is, Loar literally didn’t miss a beat. On the fly, she substituted lyrics she’d already sung, and completed the song without losing the thread. In that moment, majestically, Loar revealed not only her own unguarded heart, but the formidable edifice of her skills which allowed her to keep on going to a triumphant finish.
Tom Hubbard accompanied on bass.