By Andrew Poretz . . .
Becca Kidwell is a study in contradictions. Becca quietly has been making a name for herself in the New York cabaret scene for the past six years, and has been nominated for a MAC award for and won a Broadway World award. She is someone whose “happy place” is on the stage with her friends… in the dark. You see, Becca Kidwell is a world-class introvert. How does an introvert come to bare her soul under a spotlight for 75 minutes? Good question! Luckily, the answer is revealed by a master storyteller in Becca Kidwell, who seemed ready to explode when taking the stage, almost giddy with glee as she shared her story with great humor and impeccable timing. Her eclectic song mix moved her story along, including surprising standards such as “Alone Together,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” as well as several modern pop classics, along with original songs by New York cabaret veterans Tracy Stark and Meg Flather. There was also a new song by Becca herself.
Becca, who looks much younger than her 40-something years, wore a bright red dress, along with an irrepressible smile for much of the performance, and sported a fascinating, double musical-staff tattoo on her arm. Her expressive face and eyes seem to authentically reflect every lyric. Becca would doubtless make a lousy poker player, but there is no mistaking the emotional inner world the singer courageously allowed the audience to experience with her.
For most people, the “lock-down” of the Covid pandemic was a miserable experience, but endless Zoom calls, staying home to write, and dinners alone were a panacea for the introverted artist. For Becca, isolation opened up new possibilities for an enriched social life.
Becca offered this radical thought: “I miss lockdown!”, before singing the first song, “Good Friend and a Glass of Wine” (Darrell Brown, Blair Daly and LeAnn Rimes). She seemed somewhat tentative at first, but centered herself in time for the second song, “Inside,” a song Ms. Flather wrote about her experience during the “Shelter in Place” order in New York in 2020. The lyrics are relatable to anyone living in New York during that time, like “What day is it? Is it Tuesday” and “Six feet away, can you see me?” Music director and pianist Matt Baker, an accomplished jazz pianist, provided beautiful and innovative voicings here. For the entire show, Mr. Baker, also a sought-after photographer whose portrait of Becca can be seen at her website, elevated the musical accompaniment to a higher plane than often seen in a small cabaret room.
In a peppy “I’ve Got Them Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller), Becca deviated slightly from Stoller’s lyric with a sly political reference, “Who knew that someone so orange could make me feel so blue?” “Where Are the Grownups?” (Shaina Taub) asks where are the adults we’ve all been waiting for who will save us, only to discover, in a Twilight Zone-like a-ha epiphany, “My God, we ARE the grownups!”
Becca’s composition, “Together Inside,” had a deft callback to “Alone Together,” and is a beautiful song. If this is a taste of Ms. Kidwell’s songwriting skills, a full meal is in order.
The performer took quite an interesting take on “Smile” (Charlie Chaplin) with the device of a Bumble “BFF” profile and a cell phone. It was a charming, well-done number.
Together Inside is, overall, a brilliant concept. Becca’s ability to tell a story in words and in song is excellent, with fine interpretive skills and exquisite timing. Still, she does have significant issues with intonation and timbre, especially in her higher register. She takes some vocal risks that don’t always work, but if you were behind the wheel of a Maserati — or in this case, Matt Baker supporting you on piano — you’d rev that baby down the road and back. Perhaps she can work out some of these vocal kinks.
Becca Kidwell’s next show, “My Maybe World: the music of Mary Chapin Carpenter,” is scheduled for July 24, 2022 at Don’t Tell Mama. For more information about the performer, visit beccackidwell.com.
Becca Kidwell – March 30, 2022
Director: Jeff Harnar
Musical Director: Matt Baker
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street, NYC