Lennie Watts: Escape

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Lennie Watts


Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, Monday April 11, 2022

Reviewed by Betsyann Faiella

Lennie Watts’ new, highly entertaining show, Escape, is a rich offering of humor and pathos and wisdom and tenderness. It’s laced with heady quotes from such thinkers such as André Gide, Langston Hughes, and The Boss, as well as some lightweight non-thinkers, too.

Escape is a very thoughtful reflection on both the past couple of years and the future. Departing from the usual piano and vocal, or piano, bass and drums, Lennie assembled a string trio—billed as The Escapees—that included music director Michael Holland on guitar and vocals; Ted Stafford on guitar, mandolin, and vocals; and Matt Scharfglass on bass. The four achieved a perfect sound, a perfect blend of voices and instruments. Kristine Zbornik directed the show, and bravo to Lennie Watts, Kristine Zbornik, and The Escapees for their achievement.

The repertoire is a mixture of theater, pop, and rock. There are wistful moments such as “Dogs in the Yard” (Paul McCrane from Fame) and “I’d Rather Be Sailing” (William Finn from A New Brain), and several moments where the longing to escape is palpable as in “Come Monday” (Barry Manilow), and “Someone Else’s Clothes “(Jason Robert Brown). The hilarious “Face Your Fears” (Adam Schlesinger/Jack Dolgen/Rachel Bloom/Sono Patel from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)is a laundry list of everything one should NOT do when making a decision, as many people have done willingly—or under duress—recently.

I’m so glad I got to see this show twice.
Reviewing a show necessitates full attention and I really took in the structure of the show, the dark humor, the longing for a simpler time, the despair, the hope, the resignation, and the resoluteness.
Watts, in his limited show patter, explained his departure from the norm (and I paraphrase), “I figured if I’m going to keep doing this I can’t just do the same shit the same way.”

During the medley of “Lola” (Ray Davies and Dan Davies) and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” (Lou Reed) the trio was smiling as they were playing. So was I.

Every decision that went into creating this show was right. There are many reasons one can assume this show is personal and reflects one man’s real-life reckoning with life, the future, and the past. For me, besides the care that went into his musical choices and the tone of the show, the “tell” was Watts’ big sigh before his closing number, “Stop This Train” (John Mayer).

Betsyann Faiella

Betsyann Faiella is a creative spirit with right and left brain functionality. She is a writer and publicist, and founded SavoyPR in 2008. Her clients have been featured in major news outlets including NPR, The Today Show, Page Six, Architectural Digest, and many other major news and entertainment platforms. Her own writing has been featured in the New York Times Diner’s Journal, and her bios for creative people are all over the web. Before founding SavoyPR, she was a busy media producer working with commercial directors, leading international teams, and excelled in both the New York and Los Angeles markets with major brands including Mercedes, Exxon, Bayer, Johnson and Johnson, Old Navy. Betsyann was previously a professional singer, and made her public singing debut at famed NYC cabaret, Reno Sweeney. After touring in shows from Canada to Las Vegas and beyond, she released an album in 2001 titled Can I Be Frank?, a dedication to the artistry of Frank Sinatra. She has performed at the Blue Note, Birdland, Ronnie Scott’s, and more, and Performing Arts Centers all over the U.S. with jazz greats including the late Hank Jones, Paul Smith, and Tedd Firth.