The Bombshells

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The Bombshells

Birdland Theater, NYC, December 1, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

The Bombshells

If this group had been around in the 1940s, The Andrews Sisters would’ve had serious competition. The Bombshells—Tiffany Dissette, Heather Lundstedt, and Leah Sprecher—are far more attractive than Patty, LaVerne, and Maxene. Each talented vocalist exudes her own personality and killer smile, yet their symbiosis feels chummy. Their performance is far looser than that of their predecessors, and they flirt up a storm.

Similarities with the iconic trio include the use of harmony; quick, off-the-beat syncopations; and propulsive groove, but, except for isolated homage—James Lord Pierpont’s “Jingle Bells” with a Dorsey pulse—the show is completely new.
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Bandleader David Lamoureaux, whose deadpan, cottony baritone conjures up period radio programs, wryly keeps the ladies in line. His masterful arrangements appreciate an earlier style. That he manages to score contemporary rock in this way, creating an entirely new effect, is a marvel, not to mention his writing additional lyrics that fit like a jigsaw piece.

This is the second show I’ve attended by this Los Angeles-based ensemble. Mixing unconventionally treated holiday numbers—Ross Bagdasarian Sr.
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’s “The Chipmunk Song” on which Sprechter plays the errant, admonished, here slightly tipsy Arthur, with Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband”—is surprising, but it works; don’t ask me why. Perhaps it’s a matter of cohesive sound and playful attitude. The latter emerges in a clarinet-centric, three-part polka. “You got that nine to five/But, baby, so do I/So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies” the trio navigates with eyebrows raised.

“Wonderful Christmas Time” (Paul McCartney) precedes the lilting “Send My Love” (Adele).
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“I was running—fast/You were running—slow.” “Mighty, fine, bombshells, but how about trying the next chorus in a round?
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” asks Lamoureux. “That’s a great idea!” And they do. Lyrics cascade above intricate guitar. “Say, that was fine, Bombshells. What would you say to trying the next chorus in another language?” And they do, in Spanish.

Reaction to on-stage directions feels considered in real time. There’s no director credit, but someone has an excellent overview. Everyone looks just wonderful. The troupe is IN character—no winking camp here. Tiffany seems wide-eyed, sweet, a comedienne; Heather plays the Vera Ellen role (remember White Christmas?), grounded, but optimistic; Leah appears more sophisticated, at home with desirability. Sometimes the singers have their arms around one another, other times they gesture, not in synch but rather coordinated so that their arms are free during physical proximity.
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Modern material includes, in part a frisky “Bad Liar” (Selena Gomez/Julia Michaels/Justin Tranter/Ian Kirkpatrick/Tina Weymouth)—“Not a holiday song, but something that would put you on Santa’s naughty list”; “Be My Thrill” (Deb Talen/Steve Tannen) with embroidered saxophone and an earnest Lamoureux on lead, bouncing, stepping side to side; and “Wannabe” (The Spice Girls/Matt Rowe/Richard Stannard), each lady letting us know what she wants in clever rhyming lyrics set to thrumming momentum. The vocal and musical precision that happens during the jump tune is exacting.

Also led by Lamoureux, Donald Yetter Gardner’s “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” gleefully delivers lithsping backup, while “Last Christmas” (George Michael) finds the trio commenting and contradicting the male point of view of what occurred. Verbal asides are uber-smooth. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Mariah Carey/ Walter Afanasieff) showcases Heather’s slip/slide control and great range. The audience happily bobs.

“Los Angeles” (Greg Kurstin/Inara George) is an ode to the city the trio loves. The music is dreamy and languid. “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” the trio sings like a lazy clock. The guitar and clarinet exhale slowly. The familiar “Christmas Time Is Here” (Lee Mendelson/Vince Guaraldi; A Charlie Brown Christmas) features the lightest cymbal and a mellow horn. The vocal is utterly tender, the harmony pristine. 

“It’s too early on a Saturday night to end with a ballad,” Lamoureux comments. Whomp! The ladies erupt into a sassy, infectious “Bang Bang” (Max Martin/Savan Kotecha/Rickard Göransson/Onika Maraj), dipping, leaning in, hips swinging, arms out. This is the only choice I’d rethink, at least for this show. The song just didn’t seem to fit.

The Bombshells are a terrifically entertaining, musically and theatrically skilled group with a novel approach. They should be seen on this coast more often.

Accompaniment is provided by David Coe Lamoureux (bandleader/arranger/lyricist/vocalist), Josh Plotner (clarinet/sax/reed), Mathias Minquet (guitar), and Evan Gregor (bass).

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.