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BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

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These two award-winning artists tried out something bold, and there is definitely something there.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

Last week a seed was planted at the Birdland Theater and, with any luck, it will be given a space there and a place to grow. The gardeners were Cady Huffman and Mary Ann McSweeney, and what they began with their first outing as a nightclub act is a promising look at what they have a chance to build upon. More a coffee house show than a cabaret, McSweeney (one of the most respected musicians in the business) and Huffman (a much-lauded actress and star who has graced many a stage in her time) decided to do an hour of music with no more than bass and vocal - though, in a surprise move to all, Mary Ann did a little piano playing - and the resulting hour's worth of entertainment was a genuinely cool, groovy, laid-back, casual, intimate evening of fun. On second thought, this wasn't a coffee house performance... it was beat generation performance art; everyone in the club should have had a bottle of wine on their table, and instead of applause, they should have snapped their fingers. That's how chill IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR was. That's how unpretentious these two women were.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

Cady Huffman is done. After the pandemic and all that came with it, she made it clear that her filter is gone, she has no need, desire, nor time to censor what she is going to say or sing; Cady Huffman has learned that there isn't any time for anything other than honesty and authenticity. So Cady spent her time on stage being totally straight with the audience: she talked with them, she told them her truth, shared with them her feelings, she made mistakes and laughed about it, she said what she needed, whether it was a glass of water or somebody kind to wipe the sweat from her brow, like a television surgeon. In a way, Cady Huffman is a surgeon - she is seeking answers and she is searching for truth, and she is doing it in the place where she finds those things: music, storytelling, and human connection. So when Mary Ann McSweeney called Cady Huffman up with the idea of a show with two galpals, some instruments, and some frank exploration of what two women on a stage could do together, the adventurous, shellshocked Huffman said yes, what could they lose, and didn't they both need to make a little money. There is no telling if they did make any money because, as Her Ladyship LaMott used to say, "Cabaret is a very expensive hobby." But the rest of it, they achieved.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

The McSweeney/Huffman hour wasn't a cabaret show, and it wasn't a nightclub act, but it was an act in a nightclub, so there it is. It was a jazz set, a jam session, a living room concert, and afore-mentioned coffee shop set. It was fun to be a part of something that felt so natural and relaxed that it might just as well have been two women hanging out with their friends - and in a way, that's what it was, because the audience interaction was definite proof that the crowd was mostly the ladies' circle of friends. It wasn't completely, though, because there was a crowd of obvious tourists sitting nearby, chatting in a foreign tongue and only really paying attention when hearing something they knew, like "Fever" - it didn't bother the on-stage artists, and while it was frustrating to nearby tables to listen to their prattle throughout the show, it was genuine proof that Huffman and McSweeney are artists who can sell tickets to an audience not exclusively made up of friends, which is why the women need to continue to work on this show, fine-tuning it, and making it something substantial, for an audience made up of the general public.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

It seems wrong to suggest the addition of another instrument to carry the melody line, since Ms. McSweeney's original artistic vision was for only bass and vocal. Perhaps if Mary Ann went back to The Arrangement Drafting Table to revisit some of the treatments that stumped Cady on when to come in and that, speaking honestly, didn't quite blend the bass and the vocal in the human ear, the ladies could retain the OG concept. Or they could consider adding another instrument to assist with the melodies, but it would have to be another female musician because the female dynamic of the show was vital to the vibe and must be maintained. A show of strong, empowered, and successful industry women isn't just a good choice, artistically, it is important to the mission statement of the show, and to the potential societal commentary, much like the casual fact that two of the women in the audience were Angie Schworer and Leigh Zimmerman, providing Cady with a great joke about #threeUllas - but that joke is more than just a joke: it makes a statement about women supporting women, about solidarity between actresses, and, frankly, it's her next club act. #threeullas is a gold mine of an idea and she, Zimmerman, and Schworer need to have their first meeting about it, this week.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

Huffman and McSweeney also need to have a rehearsal this week for the next booking of IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR because there is something special here, and they - as artists who haven't worked in nearly two years - can ride it into a profitable artistic place with a little tenderness, a little care, and a lot of strong, determined, female focus, all of which is usually all it takes to make something shine, and this is a show that is ready to shine, though it is essential that, moving forward, it keeps the cool, beat vibe. It's a good look on Huffman and McSweeney, as this first trial run of the show proved: hopefully, many more will get to see just how good.

Cady Huffman and Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR was a Birdland Theater one-off but there are more great shows to see at Birdland - find them HERE.

Cady Huffman has a website HERE.

Visit the Mary Ann McSweeney website HERE.

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start

BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start BWW Review: Cady Huffman & Mary Ann McSweeney IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR at Birdland Theater Was A Very Good Start Photos by Stephen Mosher


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