Wendy Scherl: The Sweetness and the Sorrow: The Songs of Marvin Hamlisch

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Wendy Scherl

The Sweetness and the Sorrow: The Songs of Marvin Hamlisch

The Green Room 42, NYC, May 12, 2022

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

In her first show devoted to a single composer, the glamorous Wendy Scherl paid tribute to an artist whose work she connected with as a very young girl and which continued to connect with performing her life: Marvin Hamlisch. Choosing from a wide selection of the songwriter’s work (and a wide selection of lyricists), she demonstrated his versatility along with her own. Guided by director Barry Kleinbort, with terrific back up from music director Christopher Denny on piano, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Rex Benincasa, this was a class-A production. Mention also should be made of Sheridan Glover’s exceptional lighting work. Scherl attacked the material with both musicality and intelligence.

From the very beginning Scherl connected with the audience at The Green Room 42, singing phrases to individuals without making the rest of the crowd feeling excluded. She kicked off the evening with the high-energy “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (lyric by Howard Liebling)—one of Hamlisch’s earliest hits.

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This song was a great fit for her voice, and it gave her a chance to slide it into a bit of country style, with which she is so comfortable with. But she quickly shifted speeds with the first of several songs from They’re Playing Our Song (lyric by Carole Bayer Sager)’ This was “Fallin’,” a pensive love song that allows the singer to really dig into the lyrics. Toward the end of the evening, she offered a far more positive spin on romance, “I Still Believe in Love” from the same source, and she gave the same commitment to the words.

A medley of “At the Ballet” (from A Chorus Line; lyric by Edward Kleban) and “Disneyland” (from Smile; lyric by Howard Ashman) did what such mashups should do: it told a complete story, as did “Nobody Does It Better” (from The Spy Who Loved Me; lyric by Carole Bayer Sager) and “’Cause I Believe in Loving” (from Bananas; lyric by Liebling). This made for very smart cabaret work. Still, the dramatic highlight of the evening was “Rita’s Turn” from Sweet Smell of Success (lyric by Craig Carnelia); here Scherl disappeared into the tragic character who was brimming with sensuality and unfulfilled dreams. This performance, enhances by her perfectly controlled vocalizing, showed what cabaret artistry is all about.

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Unfortunately, the flaw in the show was the issue of control. It became clear that every moment had been carefully scripted and rehearsed.

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It was almost a relief when the star momentarily forgot the name of a show she was referencing. A certain excitement is lost when the professionalism overtakes the emotion. Scherl has all that a cabaret diva needs; now, she just needs to relax a bit and enjoy it.
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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."