NY Cabaret Review: Joel Benjamin
Even though Rita Wilson has had an extensive acting career, it has been a tad overshadowed by her marriage to Tom Hanks. So it was refreshing to see the lovely Ms. Wilson on stage at the legendary Café Carlyle, alone, backed by a fine band, projecting a quiet, intense, layered persona. The majority of the songs were written by Ms. Wilson with several collaborators, the first two with Ann Marie Boskovich: “Along for the Ride” was a jaunty, softly rocking invitation to the audience while the second, “Choices” was more contemplative.
She expressed her vulnerability in “Strong Tonight” (with Kelly Archer & Blair Daly) and, in a tribute to Britney Spears, “Girls’ Night In” (with Nathan Chapman & Stephanie Chapman) about just that, an evening without the intrusion of the guys.
Ironically, her singing was at its most expressive and subtle when she sang other songwriters’ work, beginning with the classic Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” which she imbued with a wide-eyed sadness and a medley of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (Carole King & David Goffin), “Love Has No Pride” (Eric Kaz) and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” Ms. Wilson’s own “Joni,” written with Jason Reeves and Nelly Joy, was both a witty pastiche on Mitchell’s work and a heart-felt homage. Her mini-Motown tribute was “Come See About Me” (Dozier/Holland/Holland) on which she was at her most animated, her glittery silver and black outfit swaying rhythmically around her.
Her own songs, skillfully constructed as they were, tended toward bland pastiches of soft-rock and folk-rock, given dimension by her singing and the arrangements by her music director, Andrew Doolittle, whose guitar solos and back-up vocals added many colors. She clearly writes from the heart as in “Still Gone” (with Jon Randall & Jessi Alexander) and “Talking to Me” (with Lauren Christy, Mikal Blue & Johan Lindbrandt) but hasn’t quite found her niche.
As a singer, she clearly has eschewed a boisterous approach in favor of a tender subtlety.
Her band, which was completed by Alex Nevarro on keyboards & vocals, Lee Nadel on bass and Rich Mercurio on drum, was a singer’s dream, supporting her without ever over-powering her.
Photos: Michael Wilhoite
Café Carlyle (September 24 – October 4, 2014)
35 East 76th St. at Madison Ave.
New York, NY
Reservations: 212-744-1600 or www.ticketweb.com
More Information: www.ritawilson.com