Dorian Palumbo reviews “The Lady in Black”

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“I Remember You” – Reverend Mary and Granny’s Blue-Mers present “The Lady in Black”

New York musical theatre has a ton of traditions.  One of my favorites goes something like this; a great diva takes time out from her other work, think Lupone or Midler, and crafts a cabaret act dear to her enormous heart, which she then uses to belt out across a range of emotions to create an unforgettable experience for the audience.  Following this tradition to the letter is Mary Elizabeth Micari, or Reverend Mary as she’s known to her fans. 

 

As you might be able to glean from the title, the new show is really kind of a memory play with music, but unlike other cabaret acts who may approach the past with nostalgia and wistfulness, Mary carves up her memory book, quite literally, with a sharp wit, dozens of post-its, and an “oh, screw it”, attitude that causes the audience to laugh, sigh, and nod with recognition at each resurrected tale.  Yes, our stories make us who we are.  Yes, life sometimes sucks.  And, no, we don’t enjoy taking the hits, but we learn how to bounce back from them, and maybe even belt our brains out in the recollection.

 

34963121_2096549370616195_1904255664297869312_n.jpgThe first thing you need in putting together a show like this one is a star with an amazing voice, and Mary does not disappoint.  The strength and control she demonstrates allows the audience to sit back and relax, while the lyrics of the songs she chooses to sing are put over with care, finesse, and, when necessary, a good hearty holler and a wry smile.

Song choice is the second most important factor here, and though a good chunk of the dozen or so songs Mary presents have to do with longing, which young folk often confuse with love, the songs of near-miss and missing old loves give way eventually to songs of “Oh, well”, and “moving on”, and the themes a more mature lover uses to approach romance.  Not satisfied to limit herself by sticking to old standards, Mary brings out of the past (the 1910’s to the 1950’s, to be precise), incredible blues songs like the Stept and Castle “Comes Love”, sung famously by Billie Holiday, and Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying.”

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A cabaret act can also rise or fall on the efforts of its backup band.  Granny’s Blue-Mers, aka Dan Furman (piano/musical direction), John Dinello (bass/percussion), and Alan Lighty (guitar), are with Reverend Mary, and the audience, every step of the way, synching seamlessly with the patter, the stories, and even providing the occasional well-placed rimshot.  As is often the case when musicians add their professionalism and vibrancy to a singer they know and obviously love, this band is tightly coordinated and right on point, using their snap, crackle and pop and taking what was already an enjoyable evening straight up to the next level.

The evening ends on an upbeat of course, with the Lady in Black celebrating with a bit of lady happy – finding her good man, though he was hard to find, and zipping out into the audience for a little roving mic celebration (one wishes that the room at DTM had a follow-spot, but you can’t have, and sometimes you don’t need, everything).  At under an hour, Reverend Mary left the audience absolutely wanting more.

At this point, I would normally cite the next scheduled performance, but the next performance hasn’t been scheduled yet, so what I will do is provide the website address (https://grannysbluemers.com), and let you know that the show will likely be done at Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret a few more times in preparation for an album Reverend Mary and the group are working on.  Keep an eye on the website, sign up for their mailing list, and take the opportunity to have yourself a good time.

And of course you can visit Don’t Tell Mama (https://www.donttellmamanyc.com/) piano bar, cabaret and restaurant, any time, which is located at 343 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, NYC.

 

 

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