Cheryl Coons & Beckie Menzie: Noise Makers and Silence Breakers

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Cheryl Coons & Beckie Menzie

Noise Makers and Silence Breakers

Davenport’s, Chicago, IL, December 31, 2017

Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes

Cheryl Coons (L)
& Beckie Menzie

Four gifted and obviously good friends joyfully sang in the New Year at Davenport’s in a well-delivered show with a strong emphasis on fun. We certainly sensed that as Steven Wallem opened with his clever parody “Seventeen Going on Eighteen,” taking well-deserved pokes at politician Roy Moore. It was lovely that Cheri Coons saluted Barbara Cook with “I Can Cook Too.” Cabaret folks and fans certainly appreciated the homage to the already much missed star. Coons and Beckie Menzie had a thing or two to say to the gents with their feisty “What You Don’t Know About Women” (lyrics by David Zippel; music by Cy Coleman, from City of Angels). Menzie soloed with her spare presentation of Paul Simon’s  “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” which has become a signature song for her. She peeled away the cutesie in the lyric to better convey its depth and edge.

Tony Humrichouser balanced pop sensibilities with meaning in “I Just Haven’t Met You Yet.”  Wallem (who is Humrichouser’s real-life partner) countered his usual smartass persona by reflecting love and gratitude in “Where You Are Is Home to Me” (lyrics: Cheryl Coons; music: Beckie Menzie).  Speaking of that excellent songwriting team, “Don’t Bug Me” (originally commissioned for the Chicago Humanities Festival) is an hysterical exploration of the mating and some other habits of the praying mantis. Although there may not be 50 ways to eat your lover, the praying mantis manages to do that. Coons’ delivery with that extended soprano mating call is priceless. Wallem builds a song from gentle exposition to world class smartass slowly and with craftsmanship in “I Shall Go on Singing,” which ends with just the right nose-thumbing arrogance. Relatable was Menzie’s offering of “I Was Here” (Lady AnteBellum) because many among us wants to be remembered for our contributions, whether simple or lofty. That those in this talented ensemble share a happy friendship was palpable and beautifully delivered in their well-harmonized closing number, “Our Time” (Stephen Sondheim; Merrily We Roll Along).

Carla Gordon

Carla Gordon is a singer/songwriter, director, and producer. The Chicago Tribune cited her among “Chicago’s most accomplished cabaret performers….a major player in Chicago cabaret.” Reviewer Pam Peterson called her “Honey-voiced wisecracker!” Ageless Magazine called her performance as Sophie tucker, “A gem!” Gordon writes custom material for singers nationwide. Her flagship show, "Blacklisted," featuring songs made famous by artists blacklisted under McCarthyism, has toured to critical acclaim. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and on the Advisory Board of the Skokie Theater. Her songs air on WFMT’s Midnight Special and are being performed performed by cabaret artists nationwide.