BWW Reviews: Daisy Eagan at 54 Below
Daisy Eagan has never been one for subtlety. Whether on Twitter lamenting the ups and downs of the business ("I have a job interview tomorrow for a temp job packaging human breast milk. I also have a Tony award.") or in her cabarets/one-woman-shows, the youngest female Tony winner in history is unflinchingly honest about her life, her career and her opinions.
Her last cabaret in New York focused on her professional and personal challenges as a former child star and her perspectives on show business and life. Most recently, she performed a one-night engagement at 54 Below to talk about her experiences as a new mother. With her signature snarky wit, Eagan shared anecdotes from the past two years of her life: Learning she was pregnant, debating abortion (told you she was brutally honest), debating relationships, going through labor, postpartum depression--even running away when the stress of new motherhood became too much. And somehow, she made it all funny, and never maudlin. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment.
It's not surprising, however: Unlike many performers, Daisy Eagan has never asked audiences to like her. At no point in "One for my Baby" did she ask for sympathy from the crowd--instead, she told her story with a refreshing lack of sentimentality and plenty of humor, much of it directed at herself. "I knew adoption was out of the question," she quipped early in the show. "I lost a stuffed animal when I was seven and I still wonder where it is." This dry-eyed look at intense emotion was at once refreshing and somewhat unnerving--probably the exact effect Eagan would want.
With Eagan's unique blend of wit and poignance, "One for my Baby" combined classics from the American songbook (including an uptempo, jazzy "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" with revised lyrics) with some modern pieces like a variation of "Jenny Rebecca, Four Days Old" and some clever medleys ("What'll I Do?" flows surprisingly well into a bossa nova arrangement of "I Wish You Love"). Many of the numbers were written to be romantic, but with either a slight twist of the lyrics or just a slight change in tone, they worked perfectly well to describe the love between a mother and son.
The title song, performed with plenty of soulful emotion, was a notable standout, as was Eagan's duet with music director Brandon James Gwinn on "Banana Split for my Baby." The six-piece band, led by Gwinn on piano, gave the songs a rich, full sound, giving the evening a more theatrical sound than a traditional cabaret would have.
Guest star Cady Huffman sang a rousing "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," and Eagan brought the mood down again with a beautiful spoken piece: a letter to her son, expressing her amazement at his life and the effect he has had on hers, that brought tears even to Eagan's eyes. Even sarcastic, straight-shooting Tony-winners can have public displays of intense emotion, and this quiet, perfect little moment summed up not only the show, but the past two years of Eagan's life: Parenthood is scary. It's messy and stressful and frustrating...but it can also be absolutely thrilling. With luck, Monty Harrison Bloom will be able to see a revival of this show someday (18 years would be appropriate) and see firsthand what his first year on earth was like for his mom. And if he's really lucky, Daisy Eagan will end the concert again with a quiet and lovely "I Will." That simplest of love songs--which Eagan says is her son's favorite lullaby--ended the show with just the right emotion: gentle, not too sweet, and completely honest.