Dawn Derow: The House That Built Me

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Dawn Derow

The House That Built Me

The Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, June 16, 2019

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Dawn Derow

When Miranda Lambert wrote “The House That Built Me,” little did she know that her song would become the perfect title for a nearly flawless cabaret offering, presented by a supremely accomplished artist. The show, thematically falling into the “story of my life” genre, was so much more than most of its type.

Thanks to tight construction, literate writing, and a carefully curated set of songs, Derow steered well clear of tedious narcissism by miles and miles. Instead, her homage to her roots, inspired chiefly by her father’s record collection, which filled the house of her youth, anchored the show. Thus, with “Daughters” (John Mayer) and “Old Cape Cod” (Claire Rothrock/MiltonYakus/Allan Jeffrey), “Make Your Own Party” (Zina Goldrich/Marcy Heisler) and more, she delivered a package of eclectic numbers that hit universal themes. Direction by Jeff Harnar and Derow’s own ability to possess a stage made for an assured, polished presentation.

Another tremendous asset was Derow’s band, under the musical direction of the very talented Matt Baker. His sweet duet with the singer on “People Will Say We’re in Love” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) was a lovely added touch. Guitarist Peter Calo provided backup vocals on several songs, and bassist Steve Doyle also showed his singing chops. His arrangement of and vocals on the combination of “Our House”/“Our House” (Graham Nash/Madness) also served to add texture to the lineup of numbers. Derow is more than a well-trained vocalist.

Her rich, clear voice with a hugely pleasing tone has a remarkable range.

More than that, though, she shines in a variety of genres.

There was country––“They Don’t Make ’em Like My Daddy Anymore” (Loretta Lynn; alternate lyrics, Richard Eisenberg); contemporary––“When I Was a Boy” (Dar Williams); and opera––“Che il bel sogno di doretta” (Giacomo Puccini). And there was a liberal dollop of show tunes. Her “bad girl” medley of 11 classics was a droll, affecting treat. The one shortcoming of The House That Built Me was the sound quality on many of the up-tempo contemporary numbers. On these, Derow, who really doesn’t need mic-ing, verged on piercing. It’s an issue that’s easily corrected and would make an already remarkable show even more so.

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.