* Tony Bennett and Sam Underwood have come to 54 Below to see Maureen McGovern and here are added backstage photos courtesy of Getty Images:
Review by: Brian Scott Lipton
In “Sing, My Sisters, Sing,” Maureen McGovern’s stunning tribute to over 20 women singer-songwriters, you can hear the famed vocalist roar. She is woman! Yet, while the show reminds us of McGovern’s remarkable power and versatility as a singer – her instrument has barely diminished at age 65 — it also does much more.
First, this 80-minute piece proves that women can not only write songs as well as men (if not better), but that they approach songwriting from every angle — from the personal (Carole King’s gorgeous “So Far Away” and Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager’s heartbreaking “Come In From the Rain) to the political (Emma Lazarus’ poem “Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor”) to the philosophical (Amanda McBroom’s glorious “The Rose” and Laura Nyro’s roof-shaking “And When I Die”).
These ladies’ songs can also be romantic (Ellie Greenwich’s infectious “Going to the Chapel), sexy (Joni Mitchell’s intoxicating “Help Me”), seductive (Phoebe Snow’s gorgeous “Poetry Man”), self-deprecating (Janis Ian’s brilliant “At Seventeen”) or even slightly silly (Ella Fitzgerald’s timeless “A Tisket, A Tasket”).
Moreover, the spare arrangements of music director Jeff Harris also allows us to realize what an excellent elucidator of lyrics McGovern is, making us think anew about some of the best-known songs of the past few decades. Slowing down Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” to a ballad makes us truly accept this hit tune as a powerful statement of a woman coming into her own, while Bobbi Gentry’s pop-country hit “Ode to Billie Joe” re-emerges as a magnificent story song about a Southern family in McGovern’s more-than-capable hands.
McGovern smartly includes some lesser-known songs, such as Carly Simon’s “Mind on My Man,” Annie Ross’ “Jackie,” Dar Williams’ “The Babysitter” and Annie Lennox’s “A Thousand Beautiful Things” – that will delight audiences hearing them for the first time.
Some people might want more information on the writers (this is not an Andrea Marcovicci show), or feel more comfortable if the songs were presented in chronological order or with stronger thematic underpinnings. But no one can quibble with the larger truth of this show: that “sisters” have been doing it for themselves magnificently for decades. And so has Maureen McGovern!
Maureen McGovern is at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street) through Saturday, March 14. For more information, visit www.54Below.com
Photos: Maryann Lopinto & Getty Images for Tony Bennett/Sam Underwood