Café Carlyle, NYC, April 11, 2017
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes
Jackie Evancho has a dazzling voice with the clarity of Baccarat crystal. It is immaculate in tone and control. A soprano who celebrated her 17th birthday two days before she made her debut at the sophisticated Café Carlyle, Evancho is poised, well-trained, and delivers technically flawless songs. But something is missing.
Known by millions after a glowing debut on television’s America’s Got Talent, she has performed before concert crowds and dignitaries, including the President of the United States and the Pope. However, connecting to a small audience in an intimate venue calls for a special musical savoir faire, and what is missing here is the depth of interpretation that aims for the heart of a cabaret audience.
Evancho has begun moving from classical experience to a crossover career. As her opening song, she chooses Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” an odd choice about pain and suffering. Since she did not distinctly pronounce the lyrics, one must wonder why she selected it. She commented, “That may be the first time Coldplay has been performed at the Carlyle,” so maybe the idea was to be hip.
Displaying her crystalline vocal power, stand-out selections included Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart’s “The Music of the Night“ and “The Impossible Dream” (Joe Darion/Mitch Leigh). Before performing “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg), she reminded us that another 17-year-old had sung the song. Evancho’s delivery was lovely, but what she lacked was the inherent yearning in the song, searching for the place “where there isn’t any trouble.” The song also pointed out her weakness in phrasing, taking breaths between words and thus diluting the message.
“The Way We Were” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman/Marvin Hamlisch) was again beautifully sung, but it demands maturity. To her credit, she modified the meaning by prefacing the song with her memories of dressing up, fixing her hair, and driving with her mother to talent competitions. Referencing her high school art class, she delivered, “Vincent” (“Starry Starry Night)” by Don McLean.
Romantic Italian operatic songs, like Puccini’s beseeching, “O Mio Babbino Caro,” are perfectly suited for her voice, yet their grandiloquent romanticism contradicts her own inexperience. Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso” is intensely romantic, but Evancho suggested, “Let’s pretend it’s about a first date.” Both songs were performed with outstanding technical proficiency. as was her encore, Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” I look forward to the time when Evancho’s gorgeous musical instrument will be able to add the element of understanding and honest emotion.
She touched the audience with her salute to her transgender sister, singing “We’ve Only Just Begun” (Roger Nichols/Paul Williams), and her original song, “Pedestal” (written with Dina Fanai, Heather Holley, Robert Kinkel), truthfully reflecting her feelings today. (“Sound the alarm/I’m breaking out,” she warns). These were moments of singer-audience communication.
Accompanying Evancho with imaginative and subtle piano arrangements were Musical Director/arranger/pianist, Peter Kiesewalter. Despite her inauguration performances, platinum recordings, and topping the charts, Jackie Evancho has only just begun and the road ahead is promising.
Jackie Evancho continues at Café Carlyle through April 22.