Alice Ripley: The Ripley Prescription

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Alice Ripley

The Ripley Prescription

The Gaslight Theater, St. Louis, MO, October 20, 2017

Reviewed by Chuck Lavazzi for Cabaret Scenes

Alice RIpley

Broadway star Alice Ripley strikes me as a fiercely courageous performer. When she toured in Next to Normal in 2010, her Diana (a role she created on Broadway) was a dynamic and deeply troubled force of nature, despite audible vocal fatigue. You can argue about whether performing under vocal stress was a good idea or not, but there’s no question that it took real guts.

I saw that same “go for broke” bravery in the opening number of her latest cabaret show, which had its world premiere at the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. Leon Russell’s soulful “A Song for You,” expanded and extended to include volcanic outbursts of passion and even some idiosyncratic scatting, was a kind of post-Wagnerian elaboration that left me wondering where the heck she was going with it, and then being impressed with the destination. She broke the rules, took chances, and ultimately succeeded— which was essentially what she did for the entire evening.

At around ninety minutes, that evening was maybe a bit longer than it should have been and, if I were directing this show, I’d suggest possibly making cuts in the first half which consisted of dramatically charged renditions of pop songs from the ’60s and beyond. Sometimes, as in a fiercely vulnerable version of George Davis and Lee Diamond‘s “Tell It Like It Is” (recorded by Aaron Neville in 1966), the results were gripping. But, ultimately, there were too many deeply felt ballads in a row for me and I began to tune out.

I tuned back in, though, for Ripley’s chatty and engaging patter, which related the songs to her life without descending into the kind of embarrassingly personal details that sometimes mar that approach. At no point did I want to shout “too much information!” Good for her.

And I really tuned in for the second half, which consisted of pianist and music director Brad Simmons’ beautifully arranged medleys from some of the many hit Broadway shows on Ripley’s impressive resume.

I was particularly taken with the three numbers from Sunset Boulevard, the show in which she played the role of Betty when it opened on Broadway in 1994. She said she’d love to play Norma Desmond now and, if the powerful way she delivered “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” is any indication, she is definitely ready for her close-up.

The collection of material from the 1992 stage version of The Who’s Tommy bubbled with raucous joy, and Ripley’s heartfelt performance of “I Miss the Mountains,” Diana’s first big number in Next to Normal, was a reminder of why she got that 2009 Tony Award.

Simmons, it should be noted, contributed not only impeccably well-tailored arrangements, but great vocals as well. When he and Ripley sang close harmony—as they did several times—it was such a thing of beauty that I was willing to ignore the fact that they were facing each other and not actively involving the audience. That should have been a turn-off, but wasn’t. Their performance chemistry was irresistible.

So, yeah, this new show needs some fine tuning, but it was an impressive, theatrically potent piece already. For Ripley’s fans, who were present in force the night I saw the show, The Ripley Prescription was potent medicine. For me, it was a demonstration of her vocal versatility and substantial acting chops.

buy orlistat online no prescription

I expect that the show will be another feather in her already highly decorated cap before long.

Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.