Nancy Stearns: Women’s Lives

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Nancy Stearns

Women’s Lives

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, September 16, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Nancy Stearns

Nancy Stearns returned to the cabaret stage after a four-year absence—in part because she was busy “growing titanium” as she put it—and was welcomed back by an enthusiastic reaction from her fans, not in the least unearned. She brought her trademark perfect enunciation and wry sense of humor, along with her fiery passion for civil rights. The latter often appeared in her approach to her material in this show, a reflection on the changing roles of women throughout U. S. history.

As always with Stearns’ shows, the songlist was highly varied, ranging from Broadway standards to classic pop to some delightful obscurities, all designed to illuminate her themes of  womens’ self-reliance, power and survival.
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For instance, in a section on professional careers, the options ranged from the oldest profession (“Love for Sale”) to assembly lines (“Rosie the Riveter”; Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb), celebrating the contributions women made to the World War II effort, to secretarial (“Nine to Five,” which evolved into an raucous impromptu singalong) to being a pilot (“Me and the Sky”; Irene Sankoff and David Hein) from the current Broadway musical Come from Away. And, of course, some women choose to be “Just a Housewife” (Craig Carnelia).
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Two wonderful lesser-known songs that reflected the attitudes of certain females—“When I Was a Boy” (Dar Williams) and “I Didn’t Say Anything” (Adryan Ross and Doug Haverty)—allowed Stearns to show off her acting chops as well as her ability to discover fresh material. Her interpretation of “Many a New Day” spotlighted her gift for reinterpreting older material by transforming the Rodgers and Hammerstein song into a swinging statement of independence.

Of course, Stearns had a great team backing her up: director Helen Baldassare, music director Gregory Toroian, and bassist Tom Hubbard. All added to the delights of the evening.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."