Kristi Rice: The Human Heart

Kristi Rice

The Human Heart

The Bridge Initiative Cabaret Series

ASU Kerr Cultural Center, Scottsdale, AZ, February 12, 2024

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Kristi Rice

Sometimes a cabaret show is one’s first introduction to another person, and we are lucky to meet through the lens of its songs and stories. I like Kristi Rice; she is genuine, sincere and caring, and she bubbles with optimism. She also has excellent taste in the Broadway song repertory. Not every song fit well in her vocal range, but she gets an A+ for the quality of the songs she chose.

Rice is an ASU Music Theatre graduate. She spent some time in New York City but never made it to Broadway. She returned to Arizona to teach, and there she raised a family. That is a common tale, but it’s still one to be celebrated, as is the title of her show, The Human Heart. She was accompanied by the phenomenal pianist Lincoln Wright. He maintained a low profile, but he played every song, including the ones he performed in the pre-show open mic, perfectly.

Rice opened with the title song from Once on This Island (Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty). Though it is not one of my favorites, it was appropriate for two days before Valentine’s Day. She followed with another lesser-known song “A Way Back to Then” written by Jeff Bowen for the musical [title of show] (sic). She used that to reminisce about her early years of pursuing her musical-theater dreams when she was a “Broadway Baby” (Stephen Sondheim)—her next song. Most of us probably agree that there can never be too many Sondheim songs in a cabaret, and Rice included no fewer than nine! Her best were “Anyone Can Whistle,” “I Remember,” “Take Me to the World” (from the little-known Evening Primrose), and two from Into the Woods: “No One Is Alone” and “Children Will Listen.” She dedicated “No One Is Alone” to her mother, who passed away from cancer, and to everyone who has been touched by loss. “Children Will Listen” was dedicated to her students.  Rice presides over a private voice studio, and she is also an adjunct faculty at the Christian College at Grand Canyon University where she teaches music theater, voice, and Worship Arts. Many of her friends and students were in the audience.

She included what has likely become the most often sung song in cabaret, “She Used to Be Mine,” as well as “Everything Changes” (both by Sarah Bareilles; from the musical Waitress). She used the latter to talk about her being the mother of a son who is now 14, making the following song “Does Anybody Have a Map?” (Benj Pasek/Justin Paul; from Dear Evan Hansen) the perfect comedic choice. Her set from Big Fish, “Two Men in My Life” and “I Don’t Need a Roof” (Andrew Lippa) described her family. She also dedicated a song from Fiorello!, “When Did I Fall in Love” (Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick) to her husband, whom she clearly adores. Because she’s a classically trained soprano, the song sat well in her voice. Now in her 50s, she shared her love for having grown up with Sesame Street and The Muppets. “Bein’ Green” (“It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”) (Joe Raposo) was sweet, and she dedicated it to anyone who has ever felt that they were an “other.”

Rice admitted to being a little nervous; she depended on a music stand and often glanced at her sheet music, but overall she was confident. As a voice teacher, she understands dynamics, and made choices that colored every lyric. She did not try to belt, and she negotiated her midrange and her lovely, clear, head voice well most of her material. One of her best songs vocally was “Quiet” from the CD Thirteen Stories Down by Jonathan Reid Gealt, a songwriter who is new to me. Rice was emotionally open to her discerning audience and was warmly received by those who came out on a post-Super Bowl Monday night to experience live cabaret. Arizona is lucky to have the women who lead The Bridge Initiative and local talent like Rice to sprinkle its cabaret series with fairy dust.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.