BWW Review: Corinna Sowers Adler Triumphs with SECOND STORIES at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
It is blissfully impressive when a nightclub starts their show on time, and it is something that happens with less and less frequency these days - but not at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, which started the Corinna Sowers Adler show SECOND STORIES promptly at 2 pm on Saturday, a perfect way to send an audience into a show, already happy. If, however, any unlucky person in the audience were unhappy before Corinna Sowers Adler hit the stage, it would have taken the affable soprano no time at all to dispel their despair. The energy Sowers Adler brought to the room as she took to the mic in simple black dress, black stockings and eye-catching rhinestone encrusted knee-high boots was deliciously contagious and only grew with the afternoon. Corinna Sowers Adler, as some already know but this writer learned, is a nightclub entertainer par excellence, and this new show (a sequel to Stories...A Cabaret) is the perfect showcase for her immense talents.
The idea behind Second Stories is a simple one: Ms. Sowers Adler presents a bit more than an hour of story songs. There is no big arc from curtain up to curtain down, but many little arcs throughout the show, and each of them executed in ways professional, artistic, and enjoyable. The professional factor of the equation is more important than a sometime cabaret-goer might realize. Many is the time that unprepared performers stand in the spotlight attempting to present a piece of theater for which they are unprepared, or during which they are unable to cope with the little surprises, complications, and interruptions that bubble up during a live performance. This is not the case with Corinna Sowers Adler, who is so polished and prepared that an earthquake could take place and it wouldn't phase her.
Interestingly, when I got home from seeing Ms. Sowers Adler's show, my spouse said to me "I saw something on TCM and dvr'd it for you to look at" so I hit play and saw a 15 minute interview with Dame Julie Andrews who, during the course of the interview, recounted that her first voice teacher told her "The amateur works until he can get it right. The professional works until he cannot go wrong."
Corinna Sowers Adler cannot go wrong.
The show Second Stories is Ms. Sowers Adler's first New York City cabaret in ten years and it is a pleasure to watch, from start to finish. Backed up by a remarkable band that featured Ralph Notaro on guitar, Christian Fabian on bass, Mike Advensky on drums and musical director James Horan on piano, Sowers Adler performs, expertly, a series of songs both famous and obscure without ever feeling the need to overshare. She has a wonderful economy with words, knowing when she can transition from one song to another wordlessly, when the conversation can be perfunctory, to the point, and when a brief personal anecdote sweetens the deal for the song that is to come. Sowers Adler knows precisely when and how to let the music do the talking, allowing herself to become a character, to become the song, to be anything other than Corinna Sowers Adler, so as to better communicate the emotions the songwriters crafted into their opera. She is committed to the story and unafraid to go to the places necessary to bring that story past the footlights and to the listeners, and anyone who has seen a singer too self-conscious to achieve this will appreciate Ms. Sowers Adler's ability to do so.
It isn't only a group of crackerjack musicians that CSA welcomes to the stage in her show: for two of her numbers she employs the able-voiced and natty Nicholas Adler and Mark Szep as backup singers; and late in the proceedings she welcomes her voice student Elizabeth Nucci to join her on the Meg Flather song "On the Second Floor." Written as a solo, Corinna heard the song as a duet and reformatted it to fit the particular gifts and camaraderie that she and Nucci share. A recent High School graduate, Nucci is a marvelous singer and a walking, talking testimonial for Sowers Adler's abilities as a voice teacher (for those not aware that CSA is a five time Tony Award nominee for Excellence in Theater Education). In an entertainment filled with highlights, the duet was a special one for the audience and a personal one for the singers, a fact that compounded listeners' enjoyment of the moment.
With musical numbers like Brandi Carlile's "The Story" and Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" or musical theater songs from the 40's or from the 70's, Corinna Sowers Adler shows that the range of genres she is able to perform is varied and impressive; but as enjoyable as her "Pearl's a Singer" is, as lush as her "Meadowlark is, where CSA really lives is in songs that some of her audience might not know, like the hi-ho-larious "The Girl in 14G" or the heartbreaking "I'll Be Here" - songs that had the audience laughing like they were in a comedy club or crying like they were at a Nicholas Sparks movie. This is the power of Corinna Sowers Adler's work as a singer, as an actress, as a personality, because Ms. Sowers Adler has a pretty voice, even a beautiful voice, but it is not a distinctive voice. It is as pretty a voice as any woman singing a soprano role on Broadway or in a top-tier choir. It is as pretty a voice as a woman singing the voice of an animated Disney princess. But if you heard a Corinna Sowers Adler recording come on the radio, you might have some difficulty recognizing her the way you would know a Barbara Cook, Audra McDonald or Julie Andrews recording. This is sometimes the way with a soprano voice - they can be lovely but not distinctive - and when a soprano wants more than singing in the choir or in the soprano ensemble of a musical, she needs a little something extra, she needs to really bring the personality and the acting. And that's why Corinna Sowers Adler is a success. She has an Ace in the hole that rounds out her gifts as an artist. She has total technique with which to fill the air with beautiful music, she has an actor's ability with which to showcase the story, and she has more charisma and charm than many an entertainer can muster on their walk from the back of the room to the microphone, let alone maintain for 70 minutes of what feels like a televised variety show on a Saturday night.
And she has rhinestone encrusted knee-high boots.
Now, what more could a girl singer ask for?
Corinna Sowers Adler will appear at Feinstein's/54 Below on November 1st in Two Divas and a Prima Donna, alongside Marieann Meringolo and Sandra Piller. For information and tickets visit the 54 below Website
Follow Corinna Sowers Adler on Twitter and Instagram @Corinnasings
Photos By Stephen Mosher