Meg Flather: Outbound Plane

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Meg Flather

Outbound Plane
Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 29, 2019
Reviewed by Joel Benjamin

Meg Flather
Photo: Helane Blumfield

Meg Flather is a quietly fierce singer. Her voice is large and expressive, and she used it to reveal herself to her audience at Don’t Tell Mama in her show Outbound Plane. She was accompanied both instrumentally and vocally by her equally fierce music director Tracy Stark, who enriched Flather’s performance and vice versa.

“Open a New Window” (Jerry Herman) was the opener, sung not in trumpet mode as usual but more like a gentle violin as if she were convincing herself. (She later paid tribute to Herman with “Remember My Forgotten Man” (Al Dubin/Harry Warren).

The underlying tone of the program was bittersweet. The eponymous “Outbound Plane” (Nanci Griffith/Tom Russell) was a mature, sensitive tale of love, and “Why Can’t I Forget Him?” (Jeffrey D. Harris/Judy Barton) was a quieter version of Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.”

She descended into agitated despondency—literately expressed—in the Richard Maltby, Jr./David Shire cry of desperation “Patterns,” followed soon after by a sardonic look at her time selling skin-care products on TV in “Keep the Customer Satisfied” (Paul Simon). “I’m a Little Bit Off” (Maltby/Shire) took her into a sudden unexpected love affair that threatened her sense of self-control.

The sadness that came after the death of her mother led to “Like a Sunday,” a bittersweet song of remembrance and love that she, herself, wrote.
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Tim Rice and Alan Menken’s “A Change in Me” brought back a sure note of optimism.

The emotional arc of the set took Flather from agitated emotion to a final acceptance of her weird but positive view of life as she sang—“Cockeyed Optimist” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) with which she ended her program.

It was wonderful to hear a mature program of songs that invited the audience into the life of a fine singer/actress without ever becoming soppy or uninteresting. Her director Lennie Watts has to be proud that he had a hand in creating Outbound Plane.

Joel Benjamin

A native New Yorker, Joel was always fascinated by musical theater. Luckily, he was able to be a part of seven Broadway musicals before the age of 14, quitting to pursue a pre-med degree, which led no where except back to performing in the guise of directing a touring ballet troupe. Always interested in writing, he wrote a short play in high school that was actually performed, leading to a hiatus of nearly 40 years before he returned to writing as a reviewer. Writing for Cabaret Scenes has kept him in touch with world filled with brilliance.