BWW Reviews: FLORRIE BAGEL Envelops Audience in Her Love Fest
Ms. Florrie Bagel of Bethesda, Maryland, recently back from her two-year national tour of Sister Act, performed a one-night-only cabaret at Signature Theatre on Friday, July 25, as part of their Sizzlin' Summer Nights series, and it didn't take long to realize that Florrie Bagel is somebody special.
The lights dimmed on excited patrons chatting and sipping drinks, and Bagel walked confidently onstage. In her adorable pillbox hat, bright lipstick, and bold-print vintage style dress, Bagel proceeded to sing a gorgeous rendition of "I'm Old Fashioned" - a crooner tune from the 40s - and even managed to muddle herself an Old Fashioned during the piano solo. This silly, full-of-life, and self-aware first number set an invigorating tone for the evening. This cabaret was going to be a celebration of Florrie herself, and we were all invited along for the ride.
The evening was dedicated to the prism that is Love, covering ground including the complexity of each unique relationship, the strength of friendships, the heady swirl of romantic intoxication, and perhaps most importantly, having love for yourself. Expertly showcasing her voice's incredible range of style and texture, Ms. Bagel re-infused an often-used concept with so much heart, that right there in Signature Theatre's small black box, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, everyone felt among family.
Bagel, accompanied by excellent pianist, Gabriel Mangiante, dove right in with a superbly character-filled rendition of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and a fantastically specific and emotionally-invested version of Sara Barielles's "Fairy Tale." Her rich, powerful voice gave life to lyrics often overlooked on radio cuts, and the audience was swept up in each new story of love's complexity.
Later on, Bagel invited her childhood friend Shayna Blass up onstage for a couple of songs, accompanied by the charming Gannon O'Brien on guitar and vocals. Blass's open and powerful voice complemented Bagel's own as the two performed "You've Got a Friend" and a beautifully simple, less well-known song, "That's What's Up" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Side-by-side in this acoustic setting, Florrie and Shayna sang to each other: "We've been best friends for ever darling, that's what's up...You've got my love to lean on darling, that's what's up." The affection and warmth was palpable onstage as these two old friends expressed their love for each other.
The expression of love wasn't contained to the stage however - Bagel made sure of that! After a round of particularly raucous applause, she asked the audience to do her a favor, stand up, shake off any social anxieties, and give our neighbors a great big hug. And to my astonishment, the entire audience took to their feet, looked left and right, and started hugging! Ms. Bagel's charm and earnestness was the genesis for such an incredible outpouring of goodwill, laughter, and community.
Everything after the hug fest was brighter, warmer, and even more fun-it's incredible what generosity of spirit can do. As the audience enjoyed their cocktails, Bagel's set moved on to love's similarity to the buzz of alcohol. With her whole ensemble onstage, Bagel on energetic and powerful lead, Blass on full-voiced back-up vocals, O'Brien on guitar and vocals, Mangiante on piano, and a drummer performed a rocking version of Lake Street Dive's "You Go Down Smooth" with lyrics like, "And I am afraid to need you so, and I am too sober not to know, that you may be my problem, not my love. Cause you go down smooth." This show-stopping song could have been the grand finale, but Bagel had even more in store for us.
For her final number, Bagel reminded us that sometimes we get wrapped up in giving away our love and forget to keep some of it for ourselves. She then invited us to sing along to the 1960s self-confidence anthem "Make Your Own Kind of Music", and we all truly surrendered to the warm, loving intoxication of the night. The whole theatre joined in on the chorus, singing with no irony - "Make your own kind of music, sing your own special song; Make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along." The applause was overwhelming, people jumping to their feet to cheer on this extraordinary young woman with heart enough to share. After her closing encore, Bagel thanked the audience for "marinating in this love fest", but it's we who should be thanking her for sharing with us her spirit and her talent but, most of all, for bringing an entire theater together in a celebration of love.
Photo Courtesey of Signature Theatre website.