Iris Williams: Let the Music Begin

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Iris Williams

Let the Music Begin

Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, Boca Raton, FL, April 18, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey Bruce for Cabaret Scenes

Iris Williams
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Lynn University sponsors the Mabel Mercer Foundation Live at the Lynn cabaret series and it has been a wonderful undertaking, capped by the (and I am understating) extraordinary Iris Williams.

Born in Wales in 1944, the elegant, regal, stunning Williams was made an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) for her prodigious talents, and talk about someone deserving it! I apologize for being ungallant re: her age, but may I please ask aspiring cabaret singers who are in their 20s to pay strict attention to someone who has been around and knows what works. Learn how to stand still and let the lyrics tell the story. Please!

An alto/contralto, she appears onstage, tall and stunning in a shimmering red gown, and welcomes her adoring audience with the titular “Let the Music Begin” and, for the next 90 minutes, may I paraphrase one of my favorite songs, “She Put a Spell on Me.”

Backed by a terrific trio—Music Director Art Weiss, bassist Paul Shewchuck, and drummer George Mazzeo —Williams, using the bare minimum of movement, both physically and musically, hypnotizes by the sheer perfection of the notes, the diction, and her self-effacing humor, which is infectious. Recalling the other luminaries born in her town—Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, and finally, Shirley Bassey (“my nemesis.

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 I’m not kidding!”)—she forgets lyrics, hits a few clunkers, and manages to make such lovely fun of herself that one looks forward to the next “event.”

She dedicated the evening to the Great American Songbook, devoting the largest sections to the more well-known songs of Harold Arlen (with various lyricists), along with the magnificent writings of Rodgers and Hart.

We went to Europe with her for a heartbreaking “Autumn Leaves,” a Piaf tribute, “April in Paris,” sung in perfect French, as well as a soupcon of Sondheim with a thrilling “Children Will Listen.

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I don’t want to bore you with her set list; suffice to say that she sang whatever she sang with sublime diction, perfect understanding of the lyrics and, most importantly to yours truly, she performed them AS WRITTEN. What a lovely pleasant change.  

Her closer was a surprise: “Remember Me,” a Diana Ross hit. I can promise Iris Williams that not only will the sold-out house remember you, but, if I may speak for them, look forward to your return to South Florida. Sooner rather than later, please. This woman is a star, in the truest sense of the word. Catch her if you can!

Jeffrey Bruce

Originally from Fresh Meadows, Queens, Jeffrey has been in nine national tours, including How to Succeed… (Finch), Camelot (Mordred) and Peter Pan (Hook). He has also had the pleasure to play leads in the entire Neil Simon catalogue. On television, he was the permanent guest host, for 21 years, on the #1 local talk show in the country Kelly & Company on WXYZ-TV, Detroit. He teaches a weekly Master Class in Drama in Boca Raton, Florida. His theater reviews are on Writing for Cabaret Scenes has enabled him to educate the public as to the superb cabaret resources that South Florida has to offer.