By Alix Cohen . . .

On the heels of receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs, Marta Sanders blew the roof off Laurie Beechman Theater last night performing what one might arguably call a pithy one-act play with music. The veteran performer is an engaging storyteller, absorbing actress, and saucy comedienne. Her mile wide grin literally punctuates the show as if light cues.

Commandeering the stage with “Love is in the Air” (John Paul Young), Sanders opens her throat like a whale ingesting Jonah. The very air moves. Her story opens with a Quaker childhood in which she learned fearlessness, “a tenant of my life verse” between stanzas of “This Little Light of Mine” (Harry Dixon Loes.)Description is personal and vivid. Frank Loesser’s “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” is worthy of Nicely Nicely (Damon Runyon’s character). THIS is testifying! The arrangement by Mark Nadler conjures set, dimmers and brights.

We learn how Sanders’ parents met and are treated to Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Spanish (a memory of her Argentinean mom.) Expression and gestures are priceless. Later, there’s an emotionally potent “El Dia Que Me Quieras” (Carlos Gardel): The day that you leave me, The rose you wear will be its most beautiful color… At the piano, Nadler rocks back at forth, almost keening.

When she was 13, her enlightened father gave Marta an opportunity to perform her ‘big hit’ “House of the Rising Sun” (Georgia Turner/Bert Martin) at a Quaker meeting, an image curiously not difficult to imagine. The artist unleashes a ferocious vocal which, though skilled, might be more effective if she took it down a notch, vibrating with apparent feeling rather than volume.

We travel to ripely detailed cinematic adventures in Columbia, South America represented by shrimp boats, landing strips, inadvertent translating, and a winking “Hernando’s Hideaway” (Jerry Ross/Richard Adler). Then it’s back to New York where Sanders finds herself at a job with strippers alternating on stage. Parroting one of them with a silver boa she creates an hysterical ‘act’ to the tune of the Munchkin theme from The Wizard of Oz. A romance and love story (marriage of 40 years) lead to Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s beautiful “What matters Most”: It’s not how long we held each other’s hands/ What matters is how well we loved each other.

Sanders closes with an anthemic “I’m Not Afraid” (Jacques Brel) which occupies every corner of the room yet sounds intimate. An encore of Dorothy Fields/Cy Coleman’s “If They Could See Me Now” sparks with dynamism and pride.

The show is canded, lively, entertaining, cohesive. Every song fits its slot as if bespoke. Gestures illustrate or emphasize; next to nothing is gratuitous. Direction enhances the artist and her material rather than imposing its own agenda. Arrangements (and vamps) embroider without interfering. Bravo Mark Nadler. Sanders seamlessly zeros in on individuals when making a point or landing a zinger.

Timing is impeccable. It would serve to take two numbers appreciably down for contrast and to somewhat edit the otherwise splendid script.

Photos by Conor Weiss

Marta Sanders Lifetime Achievement OR Whatever Happened to that Nice Quaker Girl

Director/Music Director/Pianist – Mark Nadler

The Laurie Beechman Theater
407 West 42nd Street
Venue Calendar:
Additional Show Friday April 15 @ 7 pm