Betsy Wolfe: All Bets Are Off!

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Betsy Wolfe

All Bets Are Off!

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, October 5, 2019

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Betsy Wolfe

Betsy Wolfe’s plan for her show was perfect in that it allowed us to enjoy the reason we were all there—her. Wolfe has been up and down and all-around Broadway over the past few years, and ,as everyone is fond of saying, she is recently “off her shift” as Jenna in Waitress. There’s a clear reason why she’s been in such high demand. She has a mighty voice, that’s clean, and full of depth,and range. She showed on multiple songs what it takes to be a Broadway-caliber lead. Her show had surprisingly many self-deprecating moments, but she also made sure to refocus the limelight on herself with a clever line meant to charm us or introduce the next song.

As is the case with an exceptional talent like Wolfe’s, we could start from anywhere in the show and find something worth highlighting. For example, we could analyze the opening song, “Please Like Me” (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez) from Up Here. It certainly was one of the more fun opening numbers I’ve heard, but maybe it’s better to go with her rendition of “I Love Betsy” (Jason Robert Brown) from Honeymoon in Vegas. By bringing in old photos of herself as a little girl and combining those with love letters written to her as a teenager (some of which she sang), there were plenty of laughs in between the soaring heights Wolfe’s voice can reach on lines like “I’m amazed and I’m impressed, but the thing that I like best is I love Betsy and she loves me!”

A pair of her most popular songs were from her role in Waitress: “What Baking Can Do” and “She Used to Be Mine” (Sara Bareilles). What was especially interesting was how unique Wolfe’s portrayal of this newly minted cabaret classic, “She Used to Be Mine,” truly was. Where there was typically a yearning piece dripping with regret and almost self-pity, Wolfe acted and portrayed Jenna much differently. She very much enjoyed sharing the context of the character before singing, and in her own words, she described Jenna’s state as something like “waking up and looking in the mirror and realizing that she doesn’t like what’s there.” This feeling is combined with the disappointment of losing savings that were going to help her escape the trap her own bad decisions have led her to. When Wolfe sang even simple lines like “most days I don’t recognize me,” she would reveal just a flicker of emotion on her face or the barest hint of a shrug—just enough to communicate that she wasn’t a victim to be pitied, but a woman taking control of her life from that point forward.

She had obviously thought very deeply about this role, as she had with others, including originating the role of Cathy in The Last Five Years. She shared a pair of songs that show: “Summer in Ohio” and “I Can Do Better Than That.” While neither of these are quite as often sung as Bareilles’s number, Wolfe certainly should be commended for the detail that she brings to developing a song. Songs can be sung in many ways, but when it came to “I Can Do Better Than That,” I connected the dots between her words about Jamie and who he was better than I ever have, down to the fact that the prosciutto line wasn’t about Jamie being fancy enough for her or not. And of course, she absolutely nailed the transition from sarcastic, “it wouldn’t be as nice” to “But it wouldn’t be as awful as a summer in Ohio” (“Summer in Ohio”).

It seems I can go on and on, for I haven’t even mentioned my favorite two songs of the show: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” (Rodgers and Hart) and “Landslide” (Stevie Nicks). Despite her comment that this would be the last of this show’s performances (back by popular demand), I hope that she will change her mind and brings the gang along for one more. Andrew Resnick was pianist/music director, with Justin Goldner (guitar), Rob Jost (bass), and Matthew Smallcomb, who added a little extra flair on drums.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see