BWW Reviews: Actress/Singer Charlotte Mary Wen Debuts Her Cabaret Show TIME TO TAKE A BREATH
On Sunday, October 27 Charlotte Mary Wen, winner of LA's Next Great Stage Star 2013, made her long awaited cabaret debut at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal with Time to Take a Breath directed by Peter Welkin and with musical direction by Dr. James Lent. Petite, pretty and ultra confidant, the terrific singer truly soared, leaving past anxieties far behind her.
A USC graduate with a minor in Musical Theatre, Wen focused Time to Take a Breath on freeing herself to accept...a variety of roles onstage as well as true love in a man/woman relationship. Asian Americans, as she explained, are type-cast and so it's time to break the mold and spread her wings. In a fun Asian medley, preceded by a beautiful rendition of "I'd Give My Life For You" from Miss Saigon, she fiercely tackled the Asian female stereotype with such songs as "Grant Avenue" and "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from Flower Drum Song, "Reflection" from Disney's film Mulan, "I Speak Six Languages" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and "We Kiss in a Shadow" from The King and I. She got into each role with a sense of individual style and fun by utilizing a simple prop like a tray, pocket mirror or sun glasses...a true actress of the theatre. A nicely executed high point guided skillfully by director Peter Welkin! As a dynamic intro the opening number "Life I Never Led" clearly stated her desire for exploration and change.
Other highlights of the short and sweet 60-minute set included: "Just Keep Movin the Line", "Breathe", a fine dramatic tune with which Wen emphatically showed how her life so far has been to make others happy, not herself, "My New Philosophy" about an over eager attempt to make herself happy - delivered deliciously with accompanist Lent shouting back facetious retorts, "Perfect", Katie Thompson's quaintly moving "Too Pretty" and her strong finale "The Wizard and I" from Wicked. In between she introduced three friends from USC Brandon Baer, Anthony Lucca, who took the piano from Lent for this one number, and Kevin Paley who all sang along with her on a powerful "Louder Than Words" from Jonathan Larson's Tick, Tick...Boom! Baer returned later to perform a dynamic duet with Wen on "I'd Give It All for You" from Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World. In excellent cabaret style Welkin had Wen move into the audience and sing to individuals as well as to hoist herself up onto the bar for one number. Intimate audience contact with a performer is so important. So many singers get too static by just standing stage center, but not so with Wen who showed off her outstanding acting chops throughout.
Remember the name Charlotte Mary Wen! She's adorable and feisty with a great vocal instrument and big unforgettably strong delivery. She definitely belongs on the stage essaying formidable lead or featured roles and made this cabaret uniquely her own, not an easy feat at this stage of her career. A very special evening for her and very enjoyable for one and all!
Photo Credit: Don Grigware
left to right: James Lent, Charlotte Mary Wen, Peter Welkin
left to right: James Lent, Peter Welkin