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BWW Album Review: HeArt Songs: An American Medley Makes Classy Regina Zona A Classic Cabaret Recording Artist

What do you do when your cabaret show is up-ended by a pandemic? Turn it into an album

BWW Album Review: HeArt Songs: An American Medley Makes Classy Regina Zona A Classic Cabaret Recording Artist

The first thing you notice when you turn on Regina Zona's new album HeArt Songs: An American Medley is how pretty the sound of the classical singer's voice is. Starting out the CD with a Ricky Ian Gordon tune that allows the soprano to lean, heavily, on her classical roots, Ms. Zona gives every impression that what the listener is about to invest their time, energy, and ear power in is something akin to a recital. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the listener will find, as they continue deeper and deeper into the musical journey is a wonderful, artistic, and incredibly fulfilling piece of theater, all within sixteen album tracks.

HeArt Songs is the burgeoning cabaret actress's musical exploration of one woman's life in love, starting at a very young place and traveling to a more worldly existence, hence the purity of the opening of the Act - but by the second number it is very clear that the youthful exuberance of running into life is being represented by an expertly acted "All of My Laughter" that tells the listener, "Ok... what we have here is an actress." Using more inside of her voice than just her vocal training, Regina Zona tells her (in the case of this writer, happily) captive audience that this an immersive, all-emotion-inclusive storytelling experience. Absent are the polite performances one might occasionally expect of a classically trained soprano who is focused on singing the notes her composer wrote; abundantly present are exciting musical monologues filled with all the acting choices that should be present during a piece of theater.

Note how Zona's delivery of the material evolves as she moves forward into the story: you can hear the little girl grow into a young woman, discover desire, explore relationships, even embrace sexuality, and all the life lessons that come with this type of journey, until she is a seasoned pro at life. At all times it is clear that it isn't just Regina's singing that drives the song cycle forward: there are discernible acting moments present in the rise and fall of the play's rhythm, the acting beats, flirtatious line deliveries and solemnly sung sentences - all the audible tools of a singing actor's trade are employed in the craft of storytelling. Maybe they are more present on this album than on some others because singing artists of other recordings may not tend toward RZ's focused intent, or maybe they are more visceral here because of the breadth of Regina's talent. Whichever the case may be, this is an emotionally-invested performance so replete that it becomes more than a pleasure to listen to Zona's musical play: it becomes a privilege.

And fun.

Throughout the performance, Regina Zona's humor is showing in uplifting, sometimes cheeky, definitely bold character-driven numbers like "Amor" and "Sweet Spring Is Your Time"- blissfully back-to-back numbers that compound the enjoyment of the album and propel the listener forward, excited to see what comes next. As in life, though, what comes after youthful first love and the cheeky, bold moments are the more sophisticated, sexy chapters, and, as Ms. Zona takes the woman in the story into the more adult moments of her life, HeArt Songs takes an unexpected turn into a vibe less classical soprano and more Sade - yes, THAT Sade. This is some steamy, provocative musical storytelling, immaculately crafted and delivered unto the listener, and when the time comes for the woman in the story to see an evolution in her trajectory, Zona and co. provide the perfect musical representation of that journey, as RZ layers into the more current compositions songs from the Great American Songbook, songs that listeners can, immediately, relate to, songs that carry with them the weight of familiarity. The character's place in the exploration is instantaneously understood, the moment the listener hears "Once I laughed when I heard you sayin' that I'd be playin' solitaire..." We know this moment, we know this feeling, we know this woman. It's an elegant orchestration of the story upon which Zona is taking her audience, by simple placement of song choices, and it continues straight through to the end of the sixteen song set, as Ms. Zona fully incorporates the older songs with the newer ones, the Arlen with the Yeston, the Stephen Sondheim with the Ellen Mandel. And as this woman's love story becomes richer and more nuanced, Regina Zona opens up her artistic arms and draws to her the listener, until the album and the journey reach their conclusion and the lucky audience understands the satisfaction of exposure to a singer, an actor, a storyteller intelligent and intellectual enough to fully comprehend that sometimes rare equation that an artist can piece together in the act of making a play, solely, out of songs and brought to life through consummate performing artistry. Honestly, it's a little awe-inspiring, and that's not something you expect to get every time you start an album at the first song.

Hopefully, Regina Zona's original intent will come to fruition and there will be a staged version of HeArt Songs. This writer will be first in line to buy a ticket.

Although the review portion of this article is at an end, it would be a grave oversight to not say that the musicianship on the album, the mixing, the mastering, and all of the packaging arts add exceptionally well-crafted elements to the album. By way of paying tribute to these artists, the back cover of the CD, with credits and songlist, can be seen below.

Regina Zona HeArt Songs: An American Medley is a 2021 release on the Regina Zona label, and is available on all platforms.

Visit the Regina Zona website HERE.

BWW Album Review: HeArt Songs: An American Medley Makes Classy Regina Zona A Classic Cabaret Recording Artist

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