Wendy A. Russell: Where Have I Been All My Life?

| June 30, 2015

Wendy A. Russell

Where Have I Been All My Life?

 Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, June 27, 2015

 Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Wendy-A-Russell-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212From Wendy A. Russell’s first song, “Coming Out of the Dark” (Gloria & Emilio Estefan/Jon Secada), complete with atmospheric, rising lights, we feel we’re about to witness a really important moment in the singer’s life. And so begins a tale of awakening, from childhood training to be unassuming: “When in Rome (I Do as the Romans Do)” (Coleman/Leigh), through adult questioning: “For No One” (Lennon) and “City Lights” (Kander/Ebb), to resolution and awakening: “Amazing” (Steven Tyler/Richie Supa). Along the way, Russell’s life story is distilled and intelligently communicated in text and song with both gravitas and humor.

Russell is a singer’s singer. She has a clear, direct soprano voice, capable of going big and bold when necessary; yet, she seems more comfortable in a laid back zone, concentrating more on interpretation than vocal power. At that skill, Russell excels. With “No Rain” (Blind Melon), “Stop Time” (Maltby/Shire), and “When I Look in Your Eyes” (Leslie Bricusse), her phrasing and interpretive abilities were particularly heightened. The lush piano playing of Musical Director Steven Ray Watkins provided a suitably emotive accompaniment to these and other selections throughout the set. (Watkins also sang duet with Russell on a few of the numbers.)

Watkins, along with Russell and show director Lennie Watts, also arranged most of the songs, which included several clever pairings, such as “Something Wonderful” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) with “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Kern/Hammerstein), as well as “For No One” (McCartney) with “Comin’ Around Again” (Carly Simon), and “I Want It All” (Maltby/Shire) with “Passionate Kisses” (Williams). Also notable were nontraditional arrangements of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Merrill/Styne) and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (Lennon with McCartney), sung with an excerpt of Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter

Russell is not afraid to show her vulnerability and so her journey resonates powerfully. From the foreshadowing of “For Such a Time As This” (Anne Barbour) – the second number in the set – to “I’ve Got Rhythm” (the Gershwins), and the encore number: “All You Need Is Love” (Lennon/McCartney), it’s clear that this vocal teacher and back-up singer is ready to burst forth into the spotlight. As the lyric portends, “Get ready for me, love, ’cause I’m a comer,” it looks like we’ll be seeing much more of the talented Russell on the cabaret scene.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews

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