BWW Album Review: Lesli Margherita Is Queen Of Her KINGDOM
The first thing you ought to know about Lesli Margherita is that her Twitter handle is @QueenLesli. Actually, that might tell you all you need to know about this always wry, deeply fabulous singer-actress who's become a staple of the theatre world over the course of the past decade: she's a diva and she owns it, but with a tongue-in-cheek dose of self-deprecation that invites us all in to the joke. In the live album of her Rule Your Kingdom show - recorded live at Feinstein's/54 Below - we get to listen in as she belts and banters through a rollicking set.
Margherita is best known to theatre audiences for her scene-stealing turns in Matilda and Dames At Sea, as well as her Olivier-winning performance in Zorro in the West End (one of many experiences she pokes fun at during the concert). But as she explains in her opening monologue, the conceit of this particular concert is to include no songs from roles she has played, instead taking on a wide array of songs with varying degrees of seriousness.
"I'm rich on personality," she sings on the opening song, "Baby I'm A Star," and really, that could be the anthem for the entire set. Margherita is a diva who doesn't take herself too seriously, and she leans into that sharply comic side for the first section of the album. Alternating monologues and audience banter with irreverent performances of songs, Margherita skewers everything from princess/ingénues to belt-y "inspirational" anthems. Her take on "Part of Your World" starts out breathy and silly, but then takes a moment to let some legit vocals shine through. Similarly, she creates one of the highlights of the show with "Don't Poop On My Pathway," a paean to overcoming obstacles and naysayers (which she refers to, amusingly and accurately, as "path poopers") that assembles a medley of some of the biggest power anthems in theatre. It's a medley you don't realize how much you needed until you hear it - and then good luck getting it out of your head!
It's not all giggles, though - Margherita delivers with heartfelt sincerity on a mash-up of Taylor Swift's "Mean" and David Guetta and Sia's "Titanium." It's preceded by a monologue segment where Margherita talks about the ups and downs (but mostly ups) of social media. "There are so many beautiful people in this world that you can still find," she says, and though it's clear from her words and song choice that this section is especially aimed at her younger fans, it's impactful for all of us. A later track, "Wouldn't It Be Good/That's Life," has a similar effect, with a particularly thoughtful take on the latter part of the medley. It's easy for "That's Life" to become a show-off-y song, but Margherita's take is just a bit softer and more thoughtful, letting the words speak for themselves without overwhelming them.
That's not to say Margherita avoids diva-esque vocal fire altogether. In fact, "Rule" and "Ain't Nobody's Bizness" combine her trademark sarcastic, wry approach with some serious vocals. It's sassy, bluesy, defiant, and altogether excellent, and I get the feeling that "ain't nobody's bizness if I do" could be Margherita's personal anthem.
If there's a weak spot in the album, it comes near the end, with an oddly arranged version of Lorde's "Royals." With a vaguely country-sounding arrangement and an awkward tempo, it sticks out as the one misstep in the set. But the show finishes strong, with one more medley, the playfully named "Umbrella Medley" and a take on "My Man" that would make Barbra proud. Lesli Margherita's Rule Your Kingdom is irreverent, a little quirky, often funny, and bursting with personality. But's she's most definitely a queen of Broadway - and don't you forget it.