Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, November 12, 2016
Reviewed by Victoria Ordin for Cabaret Scenes
Susan Eichhorn-Young dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in her first performance in six years. The chanteuse, who splits time between Pennsylvania and New York, received not one but two standing ovations, the first midway through the show after one of the best renditions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” I’ve ever heard. In dim lights, you might take Young for Chita Rivera—she sports the trademark Chita cut and her face bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Broadway legend. The comparison does not end there. Eichhorn-Young has a commanding stage presence. She’s a belter with impeccable phrasing and control, who can tell a story at a lower register or lose herself in a long high note.
A successful voice teacher with a large and devoted following (many of whom came to cheer her on in her first show since a devastating car accident), the Canadian-born singer trained in the Weimar cabaret tradition.
The promotional material for Why bills her show as a “journey.” Knowing nothing about the singer’s history, I saw the word “journey” and cringed. “Oh no,” I thought, “not another show about personal growth.” I thought instantly of Toni Bentley’s unforgettable line in her simply scathing New York Times review of Naomi Wolf’s last book, Vagina (which Wolf calls a journey): “Doesn’t anyone ever stay home anymore?”
But Why is not your average cabaret show about overcoming adversity. In fact, the performer never mentions the accident, leaving vague the incident that kept her offstage for so long. I found out only because two of her students shared the details with me at the table. Moreover, Eichhorn-Young projects such confidence and strength, it’s hard to imagine her as anything but the ballsy broad you see onstage (and occasionally, the side of the room).
“As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Don Black/Christopher Hampton/Andrew Lloyd Webber) was an apt opening for a comeback show, and “Use What You Got” (Cy Coleman/Ira Gasman) a lovely follow-up. Eichhorn-Young’s father always said she was “put on earth to shake things up.” A joke about vodka and gin, relayed with a mischievous smile, left no doubt that he was right.
Shifting gears to Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” a mega-hit rock song from her 1992 Diva, was brave. It’s never easy to transpose a song into another genre, particularly when the original was sung by someone with so distinctive and luminous a voice, but Eichhorn-Young—with the help of an inventive arrangement by M.D. Steven Ray Watkins—pulled it off. The jazzy interpretation played up the brokenness smoothed over by Lennox’s howl and electric guitars.
The poignant “Angels Dancing” (Melissa Manchester/Jeff Silbar)) was a nice change of pace. Joking she was always a seeker, but not in a Zen (or New Age) sort of way, she conceded that her seeking never took the form of a straight line. This made for a lovely entree to a beautifully sung “It’s Not the Same Moon” (from Sting’s failed Broadway musical, The Last Ship), and transitioned seamlessly to a breathtaking “What Can You Lose?” (Stephen Sondheim). She nailed the difficult “Everybody Says Don’t” (Sondheim) after some hilarious and uplifting patter about naysayers who hold you back.
Two Kander and Ebb songs, “But the World Goes ‘Round” and “First You Dream” (paired skillfully with Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone”) were nicely interpreted. A mashup of Sondheim’s “Back in Business” with Madonna/Patrick Leonard’s song of the same name fell flat, but it was the only underwhelming number, largely due to the arrangement. The performer finished strong with “They Just Keep Keep Moving the Line” (Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman), “I Know Who I Am” (Manchester/Joanna Cotten/Greg Barnhill), and the lullaby, “Sing Me a Happy Song” (Georgia Stitt).
With Why, Susan Eichhorn-Young brings fresh blood to the New York cabaret scene (even the audience was full of unfamiliar faces) with a truly imaginative set list executed to near perfection with Watkins on piano, John Miller on bass, and Don Kelly on drums. Trent Armand Kendall directed.