Alison Freeman: Dorothy Fields Forever

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Alison Freeman

Dorothy Fields Forever

Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, Los Angeles, CA, January 20, 2018

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Alison Freeman

When Alison Freeman sings, audiences are likely to sigh as they experience the pure, exuberant quality of her voice. She sings beautifully—absolutely beautifully!—and she does it with utter joy oozing out of every pore.
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  When she’s behind a microphone, she can do no wrong.
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In an evening devoted to the brilliant lyrics of Dorothy Fields, Freeman was brilliant in her own right, particularly in a gentle, graceful, heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Make the Man Love Me” (music by Arthur Schwartz, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and in an honest, plaintive reading of “I’m in the Mood for Love” (Jimmy McHugh; Every Night at Eight).

She consistently demonstrated her vocal power over a broad range of songs—from the emotional irony of “A Lady Needs a Change” (Schwartz; Stars in Your Eyes) to the bluesy misery of “I Must Have That Man” (McHugh; Blackbirds of 1928) to the exquisite delicateness of “Close As Pages in a Book” (Sigmund Romberg; Up in Central Park).

In a trio of songs from By the Beautiful Sea (Schwartz), Freeman channeled Shirley Booth’s nasal quality in an amusing “I’d Rather Wake Up by Myself.” She was also sweet and intimate on “Alone Too Long” and delightfully demanding on “Please Don’t Send Me Down a Baby Brother,” which she dedicated to her brother, Evan, who was sitting ringside.

She sustained splendid notes on “The Way You Look Tonight” (Kern; Swing Time), offered intense emotion and honesty on a plaintive “Where Am I Going?” (Cy Coleman; Sweet Charity), and displayed terrific enunciation and control on the tongue-twisting “’Erbie Fitch’s Twitch” (Albert Hague; Redhead). She also soared as she switched to her operatic register on an amusing “The Fireman’s Bride” (Romberg; Up in Central Park). 

Freeman was smooth on her between-songs patter tracing Fields’ career, and she was very ably abetted by a smooth, effective Greg Schreiner on piano, most amusingly when he mimicked the sound of a toy piano—as she sang the adorable “You Couldn’t Be Cuter” (Kern)—to recreate the background sound when the song was sung in the movie Joy of Living.

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.