Photo Credit: David Sabella
Pangea 4/27/19 7pM
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river.” In her one woman show, Ruth Carlin was the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote about.
As she entered through the back of the room at the appropriately intimate Pangea, it was clear by the reception she received that she was already well loved by the audience. And, when she began her opening number, I understood why. Elly Stone once told me that great singing should be conversational. “Speaking on pitch.” And that’s just what Carlin did. She told us a story with song, and I believed every word.
She opened her show with Lionel Bart’s Who Will Buy from Oliver and set a dreamy tone of tangerine trees and marmalade skies. A woman seeing the world with a sense of wonder and magic.
With her opening remarks she told us of her love of words and art and creativity. Of the writing she’s done and people she’s loved. In an original poem she’d written in her youth, she mentions life being round instead of linear, and that everything is within her “spherical reach”. And through the evening, she reached out to various moments in her life through song.
The first moment she relived for us was her first love. A painter. We could feel her truly coming alive. She deftly navigated multiple levels and layers of Joni Mitchel’s The Gallery with great vocal command and seeming ease. This was her star moment. She maintained her stride as she m9oved on to Burning House (Samuel Tyler Johnson/Jeffrey Bhasker/Cam Ochs). Although she had a bit of an issue with some of the higher noted, she managed to ride the emotion into a very touching rendition of Prince’s Sometimes it Snows in April (Prince Rogers Nelson/Lisa Coleman/Wendy Melvoin) . Powerful, poignant and moving. She brought a tear to my eye.
Very wisely, she then gave us an emotional break with a lighthearted song that involved a walrus, played by her ever attentive accompanist/music director, Paul Greenwood. Showing that she also had sharp comedic skills and well as her pathos.
The rest of the evening was more or less non-linear moments from life. Other than the arc of the three songs mentioned earlier, there didn’t seem to be much connection between the songs. And no clear reason as to how they related to her life, but she continued to bring the same energy and connection to each piece. And the audience was visibly moved. There was a lovely moment while Carlin was singing Sting’s Fortress Around Your Heart (Gordon Sumner), a woman at the table in front of me was so moved by the music, she began to dance in her seat and wave her hands at the deeper hits of Carlin’s words.
Some other key moment were renditions of Maltby & Shire’s Patterns where she sang of life disrupted. And Mad World (Tears for Fears), where she re-emphasized non-linear life as she saw it at any age.
The evening was culminated with Craig Carnelia’s Flight and closed out with a final moment of hope; “Swirl through life like a cloud” and “Help is there when you need it.”
Through it all, Carlin demonstrated her prowess at story telling. As a woman who has experienced life and made peace with it she’s experienced pain and sadness, but also found beauty and joy.
It must be noted that Director Lina Koutrakos’ keen eye was apparent throughout the evening. And Paul Greenwood’s musical direction was superb. With a particularly imaginative arrangement of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
There were no tricks. No bells or whistles. She simply rode the waves of her passion as she vocally danced through the lyrics. And perhaps shared a bit of the wisdom she’s found along the way.