By Sandi Durell
Leenya Rideout left an indelible impression on me when I first encountered her on Broadway in Cabaret; a multi talent of instruments, voice and movement. Then long periods of time went by when I didn’t hear about her, until she reappeared in War Horse but in a role that didn’t utilize her many skills and talents. Happily, here she is in a one-woman performance, self written, filled with her songs and showcasing what Leenya is all about – a great actress, singer, musician.
Wild Abandon is the release to what happens when a performer gets stuck in life, career and love until something occurs to break through and stop the downward spiral, that feeling like you’re drowning.
The show is both an ode to her mother Lynn, a woman filled with love, compassion, faith (a Church Lady) and tradition, but not the real understanding it takes to support and let go enough for a daughter to fly, untethered in a world of theater, making choices whether good or bad, but knowing Mom will always understand and back whatever decisions are made. This Mom is an artist who paints (art that no one sees) and who sometimes shared too many intimate secrets with her daughter, causing discomfort.
Leenya, a consummate actress, was born with talent far beyond the usual, excelling at everything – singing, playing piano and morphing into string instruments – violin, guitar, bass – all of which she showcases in this 90 minute presentation at the Irish Rep in the small W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage theater, a wonderful cozy space, and directed by Lisa Rothe, with scenic design by Narelle Sissons and lighting by Mike Baldassari.
The music focuses on folk, rock and Celtic as Leenya sadly, joyfully, tearfully shares her story in the lyric driven songs she’s written from opening “Don’t Let Her Fool Ya” (about her mother the Church Lady), to “Girl in the Band” (where she eventually winds up playing fiddle and traveling with a rock band finding love in all the wrong/right places), to “The Right Track” which can always take you home.
She frequently takes on the role of her mother switching gears instantaneously, a tribute to her dramatic skills, as her complicated life emerges producing a release for a better, closer understanding between mother and daughter – – a catalyst for growth.
You’ll get caught up in Leenya Rideout’s insightful stories and music in Wild Abandon continuing thru October 21 at
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22 Street, NYC www.irishrep.org