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Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

When Emily Kay decided to go solo show, she may not have known just how great it could get. And it was great.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Last night a star was born. It's such an old cliche, but in this case, it's the truth. It's just the beginning for her, there is work to do, exploration to be had, self-discovery, and a deep dive into what her artistic path is going to look like... these are all in her immediate future - and it should be immediate because this is her moment to strike. Her name is Emily Kay and she just had her solo show debut at Don't Tell Mama.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

A musical theater actress who has done duo shows with pal Olivia Perrin, Ms. Kay decided it was time to find out what the solo spotlight feels like. Confessing that two weeks ago she had no idea what her show WHERE I AM was going to be, Kay reasoned that she wanted to do an act that spoke about where she is right now in life, musically and spiritually, and what she came up with was an hour-long concert of popular music that resonates within her. Singing the songs of Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Ben Platt, and with a particular focus on Sara Bareilles, Kay opened up her arms and her heart to a nearly sold-out crowd and what came out is that she is a rock and roll singer. She may have trained in musical theater, but the woman on the stage last night is a rock performer. It's too bad, too, because it is so nice to see a young person on a cabaret stage. It gives hope for the future of the industry. It isn't just Emily's age, though, that makes her so important - in the abstract - to the industry, it's her aesthetic. Every time a young person sings Broadway or The Great American Songbook, it's a beautiful thing because those styles of music are valuable and worth preserving, and worth passing on to other young people. It is also important, though, for the art form of cabaret to evolve, and evolution usually only happens when young people are at the table. With Emily Kay moving into the solo show arena of cabaret new music, new audiences, and new life will be infused into the rooms and the industry.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM
With Marley Armstrong

But Emily Kay isn't going to stay in cabaret. Emily Kay is going to sing in these rooms for a few minutes and then she is going to move on. She will go to Rockwood Music Hall, she will go to The Cutting Room, she will go to City Winery, and eventually, Emily Kay will be singing on bigger stages, in prestigious venues that cater to rock and roll singers. This is the voice and personality of a rock and roll singer - it is Emily Kay's destiny. But she is going to have to change her material first.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM
With Bradley Gibbins-Klein

Last night Ms. Kay sang what amounts to as covers. She sang the songs she likes to listen to and she sang them the way they sound when she listens to them. She sang the Shoshana Bean/Cynthia Erivo version of "I Did Something Bad" and she sang three Post Modern Jukebox covers in a row. She sounded great, and no mistake, but eventually Emily will want to transition into singing original material. She does not have a voice or a presence for singing covers: hers is a talent that demands original material - that is how special she is. While she is finding her aesthetic, her "voice" as an artist, her formula, it is perfectly acceptable for Emily to sing whatever the heck she wants, as long as it is understood that there will come a moment when Emily Kay singing a cover will be a special occasion, something that the songwriter and original artist will be happy about. Case in point: the highlight of the show last night was not the songs by Swift, Bareilles, or Lovato - it was the Ben Platt-penned "Grow As We Go." Those big numbers beloved by the throng of fans who rabidly follow those rock stars are great, and Emily can certainly sing them... but when given a shot at something a little closer to the ground, like the Platt song or the Joey Contreras tune "Young Kind of Love," Kay just seemed more at home, more in touch with her emotions and her storytelling. Being given an opportunity to originate the stories she tells will give Emily all of the freedom in her music that she has in her onstage comfort zone, which reached a level rarely seen in a first-timer.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM
With Jared Chinnock

As a first-timer, Ms. Kay should consider writing a script and working with a director because even though she is relatively economic with her rhetoric and completely lacking in logorrhea, every performer to step up onto a stage should have a story outline and an extra set of eyes guiding them. Emily should also sharpen her focus on the storytelling in the lyrics - last night the overriding joy she experienced from being onstage in her solo show debut left her emotions occasionally on the bright side, even during a less-than-bright moment in the stories being told. At these times, Kay's performance leaned heavily on impressive vocal pyrotechnics... but then she pulls out a spectacular cover of Bareilles' "Send Me The Moon" and the audience sees what happens when the voice and the acting are allowed to exist in the same space. Electricity. And that's when the star gets born.

And last night, that's what happened.

Emily Kay WHERE I AM featured musical and terpsichorean contributions from Derrick Byars (piano), Brad Bailey (drums), Jared Chinnock, Bradley Gibbins-Klein, Marley Armstrong.

The performance was magnificently lit by Ernie Bird.

Find great shows to see at Don't Tell Mama HERE.

Visit the Emily Kay website HERE

Emily Kay gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM Review: Emily Kay Shatters The Don't Tell Mama Ceiling With Solo Show Debut WHERE I AM

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher

Stephen Mosher is the author of The Sweater Book (a collection of his photography featuring celebrated artists from the entertainment communities of New York, Los Angeles and London), Lived In Crazy... (read more about this author)