Margo Brown: Margo Sings Mercer

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Margo Brown

Margo Sings Mercer

Don’t Tell Mama, June 6, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Margo Brown

“I’m Old Fashioned,” the number that Johnny Mercer wrote with Jerome Kern in 1942, could well have been the theme song for Margo Brown’s Mercer tribute—in a good way. Packing 20 songbook classics into her show, the singer delivered the canon (including this aforementioned work) with old-fashioned glamor at its heart. Brown herself exuded elegance in attire and bearing, surrounded by betuxed musicians who would have fit in nicely at any chic supper club of times gone by. Music director and pianist Phil Hinton made the trip from Florida (where Brown is headquartered) to play the lively and rich arrangements by Tedd Firth. Beginning with “My Shining Hour,” Harold Arlen was much represented, including classics such as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “This Time the Dream’s on Me,” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” a number usually sung from the male point of view, but which Brown made work for the distaff side. Her phrasing on this number was excellent, which also was at a peak in “Out of This World” (also with Arlen).

Director Jeff Harnar wisely kept the pacing of the show moving at a dynamic clip. Most songs flowed seamlessly from one to another. Narrative was kept to a minimum and, when Brown did pause to speak, the text was a brief back story, such as on “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry” (Victor Schertzinger) in which she demonstrated a definite ability to handle comedy. She should mine this territory more. It suits her.

Despite her training and lovely voice, she doesn’t exude confidence on stage, particularly with the spoken word, despite her great charm. She’s low key and fairly static in movement, but in comedic moments shows a real brightness, again demonstrated in “I Fought Every Step of the Way” (music co-credited to Bill Finnigan).

As to that lovely voice, Brown has a good range, and when she slides into the lower registers it’s particularly resonant and sultry in a Julie London way. Most numbers were in a similar tempo, so adding more swing, such as on her “Day In, Day Out” (Rube Bloom) and “Goody Goody” (Matt Malneck) would also enliven the presentation.

Bob Renino backed Brown on bass, while Sean Harkness on guitar proved a terrific choice (rather than drums) to add color.

His solo riff during “Moon River” (Henry Mancini) displayed his amazing virtuosity in even a few bars.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.