Marnie Klar: A Woman’s Prerogative

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Marnie Klar

A Woman’s Prerogative

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, February 23, 2022

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Marnie Klar
Photo: Takako Harkness

Marnie Klar takes command of the stage. Planting her feet, she delivers her lyrics with both assurance and clarity. Her amazingly mobile face can appear amused, haughty, destroyed, or triumphant (and her choices are often surprising). Even her eyes seem to shift colors in accordance with the mood of the material. Her voice is flexible, and it can range from a rock-and-roll belt to country blast to blues-mellow purr as she moves through abundant octaves with no evident break.

After a strong introduction with a smooth medley of “Strong Woman Number” (Nancy Ford/Gretchen Cryer) and “I’m Every Woman” (Nickolas Ashford/Valerie Simpson), Klar addressed the audience verbally for the only time until the wrap-up of the evening, explaining the inspiration for her show and how it arose out of her earlier Bobbie Gentry tribute program and her interest in how women deal in a male-dominated business and society. This led to a variety of material, from the fire and ice of “You Don’t Own Me” (John Medor/David White) to the powerhouse cutting humor of “Harper Valley PTA” (Tom T. Hall) to the sultry flirtation of “When in Rome (I Do as the Romans Do)” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh). Then came such inevitable songs as “I’m a Woman” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller) and the country-western celebration of independence “The Pill” (Don McHan/Loretta Lynn/T.D. Bayless). And lest it seem that all the selections were anti-male, the singer offered a lovely, tender version of “I Chose Right” (David Shire/Richard Maltby Jr.).

Of course, any fine singer relies on her support team. Klar was backed by a trio of impressive musicians: Steven Ray Watkins as music director/pianist/back up vocalist, Don Kelly on drums, and Matt Scharfglass on bass. Cabaret Jackie-of-all-trades Tanya Moberly directed, keeping the star moving smoothly around the stage for each number, thereby providing a wide variety of stage pictures and different angles of her expressive face.

So, with all of these positives why did the show just miss hitting the top ranks? The evening contained 25 songs, a few in medleys such as the clever combination of “She Works Hard for the Money (Donna Summer/Michael Omartian), “9 to 5” (Dolly Parton), and “Honey, I’m Home (Robert John “Mutt” Lange/Shania Twain), but mostly as individual numbers. It was just a bit too much for an evening that was barely an hour long. Perhaps if the selections had been arranged to convey a story of some sort it might not have felt so demanding, but there seemed to be no dramatic design to the programming, beyond the avoidance of too many dark songs in a row. A skillful paring of the material with expanded versions of the songs that remained might have allowed the show to breathe more and might have moved the project from the “very good” category up to “excellent.”

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."