Review by Brian Scott Lipton
The cabaret world is chock full of great artists, but few measure up to Amanda McBroom. A California-based singer-songwriter whose compositions exhibit wit and wisdom (often in equal measure), McBroom can perform a tune she wrote 40 years ago with the same freshness as one finished four days ago. Her warmth envelops a room, making all feel like they are her best friend and, within moments, erases instant memories of the cold, dreary night outside. And as beautifully as she delivers her own work, she’s even a better interpreter of other people’s material. She is, in short, the total package.
Alas, we New Yorkers don’t get to open that package often enough, which is why one wishes there was another chance to experience “My Favorite Things,” the excellent new show McBroom debuted on Monday as part of the Broadway at Birdland series. Laughingly admitting that she’s “too old to have a theme show,” (the singer just turned 71, not that you can tell), McBroom chose instead to present a 15-song program that was a mélange of her own favorite compositions (some co-authored with her brilliant pianist, Michelle Brourman), sprinkled with a smattering of standards.
I admit I took the greatest pleasure in hearing McBroom deliver some of her best known (and best written) numbers: the haunting romantic ballads, “Ship in a Bottle” and “Crimes of the Heart,” both still have the ability to stop one’s heart; the resonant “No Fear” (reportedly requested by her husband, George) remains a stirring testament to the limits of self-resilience; and, “The Rose,” her award-winning song made world-famous by Bette Midler, is still one of the greatest examinations ever penned of the nature of love, made even more poignant by the simplicity McBroom brings to her rendition.
Still, it was a pleasure to hear some newer and lesser-known songs from her catalogue, such as the very funny “Eggs” (although after hearing it, eating breakfast every day may never feel the same), the ultra-topical “Strange Days,” and the surprisingly disturbing “Baby in a Box.” As a tribute to her late musical partner, Joel Silberman (who passed away earlier this summer), McBroom offered up two of their compositions, “This Time Around” and “New York at Night,” each adding a touch of lightness and sweetness to the program.
Still, I wouldn’t be 100 percent truthful if I didn’t admit that I wished McBroom had tackled more work by her fellow songwriters. Her rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s masterly “Send in the Clowns” captured every facet of this bittersweet musical monologue, while the verbal and emotional dexterity she brought to Jacques Brel and Eric Blau’s tricky “Carousel” is beyond wondrous. Yes, I’ve heard McBroom do this strange song before, but I think I could listen to it every night: it is one of my favorite things.
Amanda McBroom: My Favorite Things was presented at Birdland (315 West 54th Street. 212-581-3080) on Monday, September 10;
Photos: Maryann Lopinto