by: Paulanne Simmons
At first it might seem that Marissa Mulder is an odd candidate for interpreting the songs of gravel-voiced singer-songwriter Tom Waits. When he rumbles and rails she trills and vibrates. And while he looks like an ancient hobo, she seems like an angel of mercy come to soothe our tired spirits.
But the truth is many of Waits’ best-known songs have been sung by others. Thus when Mulder sings “Jersey Girl” we think of Bruce Springsteen, “Ol’ 55,” the Eagles and “Downtown Train,” Rod Stewart. And when Mulder presented Marissa Mulder: the Songs of Tom Waits, at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Sept. 10, we could easily suspend our disbelief.
When Mulder wasn’t singing Waits’ songs, she either took on the role of narrator or spoke in the voice of Waits himself. Either way, she reveals essential details of his life, particularly his relationships with women and, of course his very fruitful collaboration with his wife, Kathleen Brennan. Brennan/Waits collaborations performed by Mulder include “Alice,” “I’m Still Here” and “Day After Tomorrow.”
The show is directed by Lauren Fox, with musical direction by Jon Weber, and Ritt Henn on bass and Mike Rosengarten on guitar. The musical backup is subtle enough not to overwhelm Mulder’s gentle sound.
Mulder certainly gives us Waits’ songs with heartbreaking intensity, but there are times one wishes there was a bit more variation in her delivery. At the end of the show, Mulder told the audience her legs were stiff from standing still so long.
Cabaret is an intimate venue and provides entertainers with a great opportunity to get to know their audience. Mulder would do both her legs and her audience a big favor by giving her show more of Waits’ rambling spirit.
Feinstein’s/54 Below is located at 254 West 54 St., www.Feinstein’s/54below.com.