Regina Zona: Becoming… the Queen 2.0, When One Coronation in a Lifetime Is Not Enough

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Regina Zona

Becoming… the Queen 2.0, When One Coronation in a Lifetime Is Not Enough
The Triad, NYC, December 8, 2019
Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Regina Zona

Regina Zona lied to her audience at The Triad. She claimed she was making her cabaret debut. Obviously, she’s been performing under another name for the past 20 years in night spots outside of New York. No one could be so polished, so warm, so funny, or so enveloping on her first time out. Oh, it could be due to the magic touch of her director, Lina Koutrakos, or her adorable music director, Jonathan K. Parks, along with bassist Sean Murphy and drummer Mike Lunoe, but the richness of the queen’s voice and the depth of her interpretations has to come from many years of experience. It is true that the diva has had an extensive career in opera (a recording of her dazzling performance as Mozart’s Queen of the Night kicked off the program) and classical recital, but none of that accounted for her flawless diction and dramatic and comic phrasing that got to the heart of the lyrics of her selections.

Launching the show with a medley of the opening numbers from both versions of The Wild Party, “Raise the Roof” and “Welcome to My Party,” the style was set with her mix of jazzy delivery and fun interplay with both the audience and her music director. No pretensions, but a charming amount of self-mockery ensued from “Homage to My Hips” (Gwyneth Walker/Lucille Clifton), celebrating her career-limiting figure to “I Love Teaching Voice” (Ben Moore), a “Mrs. Worthington” for the vocal instructor set, abetted by Parks, who was once the diva’s voice pupil.

About halfway through, the show turned personal and a pairing of romantic ballads (one sad, one ecstatic) raised the program to a new level. With “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “When Did I Fall in Love?,” Zona paired her shimmering voice with emotional interpretations of splendid lyrics to move her to the top of the list of cabaret chanteuses. With an intelligent medley of “The Road You Didn’t Take” and “Move On,” her talent for beautifully acted lyrics delivered with a startingly specificity was thrilling.

She shifted gears for an exultant finale that blended “Before the Parade Passes By” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” delivered with a “south of the border” arrangement and filled with galvanic joy. No, this couldn’t possibly be Zona’s debut, and it certainly can’t be her farewell. There’s still a whole lot of songs she’s got to sing for her public.
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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."