Lindsay Mendez

Lindsay Mendez

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, September 12, 2017

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Lyndsay Mendez

While Lindsay Mendez has ostensibly made a name for herself in contemporary theater, this return to Feinstein’s/54 Below seemed to evoke an era inhabited by a different breed of performer. With a black and gold A-Line dress seemingly designed by Edith Head (pocketed, no less!), a brassy back-up band, and a mostly jazzy vocal attack, Mendez recalled those supper club chanteuses,  blending shades of Kaye Ballard, Blossom Dearie, and Carmen McRae into a wallop of a performance.

Indeed, Mendez delivers impressive vocals complete with a forward placement, rapid vibrato, and appropriate ornamentation. She also tackles songs associated with some of the greats—Midler, Streisand, LuPone, etc.

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—with aplomb, shaping them with her own budding signature style. (Exciting!) And, the choice of material mostly showcases Mendez at her best. A pairing of “I Got Lost in His Arms” (Irving Berlin) and “My Old Man” (Joni Mitchell) was particularly entrancing, both in its earnest sentiment and unbridled precision of tonality and rhythm.

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And a rhythmic showdown between Mendez and boyfriend/drummer Philip Wakefield in “Ooh Bang Jiggilly Jang” (Bob Merrill) let her have some authentic fun while showing off.

The final 20 minutes faltered, however, with the singer presenting a medley of six Joan Baez songs. Almost avoiding the lyrics’ inherent messaging, Mendez sometimes shut her eyes, connecting often only with music director Bryan Perri. This missed opportunity, both in musical overkill and lack of focus in approach, was exacerbated when it was followed with a similar message-song by Ryan Scott Oliver, midtempo, throwing off the build previously crafted so delicately.

But Mendez’s lurking “lovable loser” sensibility deftly resonated in “Pretty Funny” (Benj Pasek/Justin Paul) and “I Get the Neck of the Chicken” (Frank Loesser/Jimmy McHugh), endearing us to her. And, luckily, that charm makes Mendez a prime candidate to watch for future cabaret showings.

Randolph B. Eigenbrode

Randolph is the newest addition to the writing staff at Cabaret Scenes. He is a cabaret teacher, previously teaching with legend Erv Raible, and his students have gone on to success in the field with sold-out shows and many awards. He is also a director and that, combined with a knowledge of the art form and techniques that cabaret performing encompasses, makes him love reviewing NYC’s cabaret scene. When not catching the Big Apple’s crazy talent, Randolph loves 1970s variety shows, mall Chinese food, Meryl Streep films and a good cold glass of pinot grigio.