by: Paulanne Simmons
British chanteuse Barb Jungr, who was born in northern England, claims in her new show, Come Together, that she has avoided singing the Beatles’ songs all her professional life. It was, in fact, because they spoke the language of the “funny little northern people” she had known while growing up that she hesitated.
Fortunately, Jungr has at last changed her mind. And the result is the glorious bouquet of Beatle songs, well-known and more well-known, which she is performing at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Actually it was her musical director, John McDaniel, who changed Jungr’s mind. McDaniel, who is artistic director of the O’Neill Theater Center’s Cabaret Conference, invited Jungr to be master teacher at the O’Neill, and it was there they created a Beatles medley for the Gala Performance.
Jungr brings out all the Beatles’ sweet innocence in love songs like “Gotta Get You Into My Life” and “All My Loving.” She also summons up the youthful sarcasm and anger of songs like “Getting Better” and “Penny Lane.”
But, of course, the Beatles, like the rest of us, had to grow up, and their songs eventually reflect a more mature loneliness (“Fool on the Hill”) and sorrow (“The Long and Winding Road”), emotions Jungr is particularly comfortable putting into her inspired delivery.
While the Beatles mostly made tentative advances into the blues, Jungr jumps in full throttle with a swinging “Come Together,” in which she plays a remarkable harmonica solo. Walking offstage into the audience, Jungr and McDaniel have the audience clapping and singing an enthusiastic chorus.
Minutes later, at the end of the evening, the mood turns serious with the Beatles’ heartbreaking homage to love, loss and memory, “In My Life.”
Returning to our roots can often make for a difficult journey, but as Come Together proves, it can be worth the effort.
Barb Jungr, through Oct. 31, and Jan. 13 & 14 at Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54 Street (646) 476-3551
254 W 54TH ST, CELLAR, NEW YORK