Natalie Douglas: Tributes: Ronstadt

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Natalie Douglas

Tributes: Ronstadt

Birdland, NYC, August 29, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Natalie Douglas
Photo: Bill Westmoreland

There’s a moment before Natalie Douglas begins a song when she smiles. Not one of her warm smiles that encompasses the audience. Nor one of her giggly smiles when something —a comment from an audience member or confusion on which of her gifted musicians is playing which instrument at the moment —strikes her funny. No, this small smile expresses her pure joy at sharing the music she loves.

In the second of four tribute evenings Douglas is performing at Birdland, the chosen artist was Linda Ronstadt —at first a seemingly unlikely pairing—but she quickly revealed how influential the singer was on her life and her music.

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The diva revealed that she wanted to grow up to be a hippie, and she considers Ronstadt the “über-hippie,” as well as the “coolest girl in the world.” She admires her talent, her unconventional lifestyle, and the “cute guys” she bedded.

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She also demonstrated the wide variety of musical styles Ronstadt worked in.

The sparkling vocalist offered up country songs she loved as a child—“Silver Threads and Golden Needles” (Dick Reynolds/Jack Rhodes); Latin rhythms— “Quiéreme Mucho”  (Gonzalo Roig/Agustin Rodriguez); and standards—a peerless “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn). And, as with any Douglas show, there was a generous helping of torch songs—“Blue Bayou” (Roy Orbison/Joe Melson), which showed off the singer’s attractive lower register; and “Try Me Again” (Ronstadt/Andrew Gold), which she described being about “a relationship that would work out if only everything was different.”

Joining her on stage on a wide variety of instruments (and some singing harmonies) were musical director Mark Hartman, Joe Choroszewski, Lily Masse, Brian Nash, Endea Owens, and Shanna Sharp. Each added magic to the evening.

Douglas returns to Birdland on September 25 to pay tribute to Nina Simone.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."