Lady Rizo

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Lady Rizo

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, January 27, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Lady-Rizo-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Lady Rizo, the witty and fierce alter ego of Amelia Zirin-Brown, is anything but predictable. The “Caburlesque” artist with the high energy belter’s voice opened her first postpartum show with her traditional set-closer “Song of Freedom.” The self-penned opus, a clarion call to self-actualization and action, raises the roof, leaving her audiences both energized and inspired. Rizo smartly jokes about the set list twist, says her goodnights and walks away. Returning to the mic, she teases the faux finale with the comment, “I might as well start high; the only way to go is down.” Her vocals on the anthem are strong, clear and dynamic and, for Amelia and the band, the only way forward is up.

Rizo is renowned for taking classic songs and reinterpreting them in her brassy, self-assured style. “Baby It’s You,” the Burt Bacharach, Luther Dixon and Mack David hit for The Shirelles, becomes a hard-hitting R&B teaser. John Lennon’s poignant “Mother” is a primal scream of abandonment and L.R. makes you feel the angst. A funny anecdote about a chance encounter with a woman who’s dating her current man leads into a comic mashup of D’angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Mutherfucker” and Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” It’s a signature Lady Rizo move and she works the ridiculousness to the maximum.

Her musical compatriot is guitarist/cellist extraordinaire Yair Evnine, and she relies on him to set the tone and rhythm of her sound. The show becomes a family affair with Lady’s brother (beatbox/vocals) and father (flute) joining her onstage, as well as a beautiful moment when she breastfeeds her newborn son Tennyson while singing him the sweet lullaby “Baby Mine” (Ned Washington/Frank Churchill) from Disney’s Dumbo.

Rizo, a talented songwriter, previewed two songs from her forthcoming CD, “Loving in Color” (Amelia Zirin-Brown/Yair Evnine/Spencer Day) and “A Hit of You” (Zirin-Brown/Evnine). Another original, “Cherry Lane Saint” (Zirin-Brown/Evnine) has become a live performance favorite. Lady Rizo closed her show with a heartfelt tribute to David Bowie with his apocalyptic “Five Years.” The song became a poignant audience sing-along with Rizo acknowledging Bowie’s uniqueness and ability to constantly morph his persona. It’s a trait that Amelia Zirin-Brown has fully accepted and champions.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.