Minda Larsen in Johnny Mercer—Trav’lin’ Light

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Johnny Mercer Gets the Urban Stages’ Winter Rhythms treatment.

 

 

By Joel Benjamin

 

Minda Larsen has it all: She’s beautiful, has a great figure, dresses with flair and has a wonderfully rich voice. Why, then was her Johnny Mercer—Trav’lin’ Light at Urban Stages so strangely unsatisfying?

 

It’s not that Ms. Larsen’s interpretations of the Mercer oeuvre held no pleasures, but that they were simply that, pleasurable, when they might have been touching, angry, sensual or even terrifying. Yes, her “Goody Goody” (Matty Malneck) combined with “I Wanna Be Around,” written from an idea by Sadie Vimmerstedt, had the makings of bitterness, but never quite got there.

 

Although multiple Oscar winning Mercer’s words are often considered merely sophisticatedly glib or sardonic, they hide a wealth of emotions. These emotions went mostly under-mined.

 

The odd thing was that her detailed vignettes about Mercer’s Southern upbringing—something she shared with him—was quite touching, especially when she spoke of his long, difficult affair with the love of his life, Judy Garland.

 

Her combination of “Whistling Away the Dark” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” (both with Mancini) worked quite well, while her “Dream” could have used a more floating tone, more breath. “That Old Black Magic” (Arlen) lacked punch, but she got the flirty sweetness of “I’m Old Fashioned” (Kern). Her purity of tone and youthful appearance worked for “Moon River” (Mancini) and made her finale, “Too Marvelous for Words” (Richard Whiting) a touching tribute to the object of her show.

 

Music Director, Neal Kirkwood’s arrangements and piano playing kept the evening perky and energetic.

Photo: Maryann Lopinto

 

Minda Laresen in Johnny Mercer—Trav’lin’ Light (December 10, 2015)

Winter Rhythms/Urban Stages

259 West 30th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues

New York, NY

For tickets call 866-811-4111  www.urbanstages.org

 

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