Sylvia McNair: Subject to Change!

| June 7, 2016

Sylvia McNair

Subject to Change!

(Harbinger Records)

June 6, 2016

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Sylvia-McNair-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212 On this live recording, the two-time Grammy winner Sylvia McNair recalls her turns in Antony and Cleopatra, La Traviata and other productions. In 1999, she abandoned a starring career with The Metropolitan Opera and other companies, expanding to other endeavors, including teaching diction and following her heart—singing the Great American Songbook in concert halls and cabarets. She even studied with legendary soprano Eileen Farrell who helped guide her on scaling her voice to the song. Ultimately, this glorious singer conquered it all and mastered subtexts and flawless phrasings on a vast repertoire in a career that just gets better with time.

On this unique album, McNair displays her thrilling soprano on a bevy of eclectic songs. In shimmering voice, she also has a lot of fun. Opening with (an appropriate) “Everybody Says Don’t” (Stephen Sondheim) and closing with “With a Song in My Heart” (Rodgers & Hart), the sheer beauty of her clarion-toned voice expresses an entertaining tale of a lady who has followed her heart and is a survivor. She performs stunningly realized renditions of beauties like “This Time the Dream’s on Me” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer), “It’s Good to Have You Near Again” (Andre & Dory Previn) and a medley of “Tonight” with “One Hand, One Heart” (both from the score of West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein/Sondheim). She also offers a pensive and rarely heard “I Cannot Hear the City” from Sweet Smell of Success (Marvin Hamlisch/Craig Carnelia) that is powerful and poignant in its subtlety. On “Orange Colored Sky” (Milton DeLugg/Willie Stein), she proves she is equally at home with swing/jazz material. Throughout, she also displays a winning, down-to-earth personality that sparkles.

Like Broadway soprano Barbara Cook (whose lead she might check out as she further expands her repertoire), McNair has the grace and intelligence to melt to a whisper on a ballad as well as belt out show tunes from the rafters with equal grace.  It’s all here in this gem of an album that is sure to gain well-deserved attention.

With Ted Taylor on piano and serving as musical director, she’s in good hands. Also, Jeremy Allen on bass and Steve Houghton on drums and percussion offer excellent support.

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Category: CD Reviews, Music, New York City, New York City Music Reviews, Regional

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