Becca Kidwell: Show of Dares

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Becca Kidwell

Show of Dares

Pangea, NYC, July 15, 2021

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

It’s not every cabaret show that includes Victor Herbert and Madonna, Rickie Lee Jones and Steven Sondheim. But then, Becca Kidwell’s return to cabaret is hardly a typical show. She collected “dares” from members of the cabaret elite, including Sidney Myer, Mark Janas, Lina Koutrakos, Lennie Watts, Sue Matsuki, Kristine Zbornik (her director), and Tracy Stark (her music director) to compile the song list for Show of Dares.

Each number was a challenge for her to master, and she largely did. Kidwell is basically a character actress dwelling inside a lyric soprano. She lives within the lyrics, with perfect diction and idiomatic phrasing that can reveal several levels of meaning to the words. Who would know that “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” could apply to the return of New York City nightlife post-Covid, but with her giddy delivery it does indeed.

Not everything worked. A mix of “Like a Virgin” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” seemed to make the singer uncomfortable and the very challenging “Could I Leave You” didn’t quite click—Kidwell seemed to have trouble catching the ice-cold fury of Phyllis Stone, though her explosion at the end of the number was awesome indeed.

But torching Stark’s “Mr. Moon” and setting the stage on fire with Meg Flather’s “Here I Go” hit emotional home.
And the singer’s “A Quiet Thing” possessed a perfectly calibrated arc from stillness to passion.

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However, the musical-comedy madness highlight of the show was her reinterpretation of Ursula the Sea Witch as a ditsy dame whose claws are barely concealed as she sympathizes with those “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Riotously comic and wonderfully delivered.

Of course, her music director Stark deserves a great deal of credit for providing musical support and demonstrating of the same versatility that Kidwell displayed. And Zbornik directed with an invisible hand, the best kind of cabaret direction. All in all, what a refreshing evening.

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."