T. Oliver Reid: Made in Americana

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T. Oliver Reid

Made in Americana

Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, NYC, August 17, 2016

Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Maryann Lopinto
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Multi-talented T. Oliver Reid smoothly melded together spiritual, rock, folk and Great American Songbook songs with photos and videos to tell the almost 200-year history of his family in a thoroughly entertaining manner. The story begins generations ago with the birth of a child to a slave and her plantation master, who is later purchased from slavery by her future husband, and continuing through the years of the Great Depression up to the present. The narrative is an uplifting series of stories of the triumph of strong will and faith in family over adversity. Reid’s powerful voice works equally with songs as diverse as an old Ike & Tina Turner hit and a Noël Coward number. Reid’s dramatic skill and graceful movement on stage make it virtually impossible to take your eyes off of him.

Opening in a soft voice with Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” that piece was followed by a very powerful “River Deep—Mountain High”(the aforementioned Ike & Tina Turner success written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector). A story about his great-great-great-grandmother lead into the work song “Black Betty.”  “I Wish I  Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”  (Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas)  and “Freedom” (Gary Geld and Peter Udell, from the musical Shenandoah) aptly described the emotions felt before and after Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Photos of the dust bowl period of the Great Depression added power to Reid’s performances of “Come the Wild, Wild Weather” (Coward) and the spiritual “Let Us Break Bread Together.” The 1960s and 1970s came to life with “This Land Is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie) and “People Get Ready” (Curtis Mayfield). “Don’t Stop Believing” (Jonathan Cain/Steve Perry/Neil Schon) preceded the ironic closing number “Might As Well Get Stoned.” The encore, “God Bless America,” performed as a spiritual, had the audience cheering and was the perfect way to end this inspirational evening.

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.