Marieann Meringolo: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman

| August 14, 2017

Marieann Meringolo

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Iridium, NYC, August 13, 2017

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Marieann Meringolo
Photo: Devon Cass

During an enduring collaboration, Alan and Marilyn Bergman have written for almost every entertainment platform, garnering 16 Academy Award nominations (three Awards), as well as multiple Emmys and Grammys. Marieann Meringolo has arguably taken up this generation’s representative gauntlet, investing years in exploration of the extraordinary oeuvre for which she feels affinity. The show, a live CD recording, tops off her tribute. “…Married 59 years, I think they might have a thing or two to say about life and love…” she observers, referring to the honorees.

When Meringolo begins a lyric, it’s as if we hear it not at inception but along the way; there’s no initial push, no little jerk of effort or volume. Thought and emotion emerge smoothly from somewhere on their way elsewhere, making them immediate, real. An excerpt from “Nice and Easy” (music-Lew Spence) arrives out of history dissolving into the timeless. During “It Might Be You” (Dave Grusin), the vocalist scrunches her eyes as if puzzling.

“What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” slowly pours out of Meringolo. Artful pauses in music often allow her an a cappella line or two. The song is sultry. There’s a little quiver between “all of my life” and “with you.” Bass hums. An entwined “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and “Summer Me, Winter Me” is buoyed by caressed piano, circling brushes, and stroked bass creating a kind of whispering echo. The vocalist is deeply invested.

A welcome variation in tone arrives with “Love Makes the Changes” and “Pieces of Dreams” (“Little Girl Lost”). The first is honky-tonk torch with backroom saloon beat that makes one wonder what Meringolo might do with R & B. Doyle Newmeyer’s emphatic hands literally lift and swing back from the piano at one point. A sob accompanies the last, raised, vocal octave massaged into submission. “Pieces of Dreams” floats in on delicate music box piano. Meringolo makes the lyric a conversation with her younger self. It’s easy to imagine a little girl waltzing. Piano theme spirals. It’s heartfelt and hopeful. (All above Michel Legrand.)  The beautiful “Fifty Percent” (Billy Goldenberg from Ballroom) is notable for the artist’s use of the pronoun she. Brava.

Meringolo excels at drama. “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow” is enveloped in shadow. Bass bows palpably across one’s chest. The last line is a cri de coeur. “I Was Born in Love with You” is fantasy dark. Whorls of mist practically rise from the stage as if Meringolo is conjuring. This is vocally difficult material. The performer is in control of every turn, dip and elevation. “I will die…” her hands make fists “…in love with you.” “Where Is It Written?” and “A Piece of Sky”  (Yentl) soars like exuberant stunt flying. (All Legrand.)

Another effective anthem, the song signifies a caveat: There are too many numbers of a type—that swell, diminish and swell, plumbing emotion. Meringolo has terrific control and could certainly offer a few other quiet or upbeat choices to replace a few of these. We need respite. My second reservation is that the artist delivers most of this show with her eyes closed, keeping us from intimacy that defines cabaret.

Enunciation is as exacting as Meringolo’s evocative phrasing. Patter is minimal. The vocalist’s arms and hands balletically extend visceral feeling. Every now and then, you’ll find your hairs standing on end.

Will Nunziata’s direction is adroit, except for mentioned exceptions. That artist is developing a fine reputation in a second career. He’s currently working on several theater pieces, including one with the Bergmans.

After 17 years together, MD/pianist/arranger Doyle Newmyer knows both his vocalist and the material. The extremely deft musician embroiders without distracting, selectively illuminates, supports, and manages miraculously to make the predominance of songs we’ve heard innumerable times sound fresh. Boots Maleson (bass) and Sipho Kunene (drums) are top notch.

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

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