BWW Review: FARAH ALVIN ON VINYL Leaves The Green Room 42 Audience Screaming for More
This was overheard at the next table Sunday night at The Green Room 42, right after Farah Alvin sang a note for about ten minutes. Ok, it's an exaggeration, it was only nine minutes. It does, though, lead one to wonder exactly how long a singer can hold one note, and it is just entirely possible that Farah Alvin has the answer, because at Sunday night's debut of FARAH ALVIN ON VINYL the Broadway favorite held many a note for many seconds, leaving her audience bewildered... and even more in awe of her than they had been in the moments before.
It's been many a year since Farah Alvin played a nightclub, though it is where her career as a singer started. The last two decades have seen Farah going from show to show on Broadway, off-Broadway and in the regional theaters of America. When The Green Room 42 asked her to play their club they continued a pattern of asking the most bomb and rad acts to grace their stage, a stage where no clunker has ever gone before - and Farah Alvin has kept the record clean for the hip club where all things boss go down. FARAH ALVIN ON VINYL is unquestionably one of the coolest, most entertaining shows ever to be seen on a nightclub stage of New York City.
Only this isn't a cabaret show, it's a rock concert.
That's right. Rock and Roll. Be careful Broadway, or you are liable to lose one of your most oft-employed singing actresses to the life of a rocker. It's mindblowing to think of Farah Alvin belting Broadway tunes after watching her rock out for 75 minutes to some groovy 70s rock music - and we are talking ROCK. OUT. Upon taking the stage in her cool 70s-feel frock and knee-high boots, you might think she is going to sing some Helen Reddy or Karen Carpenter, but instead what you get is a steady mixture of Elton John, The Commodores, Three Dog Night, and Stevie Wonder. Oh sure, there are the ladies. There's Joni Mitchell, Phoebe Snow, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Melissa Manchester, Gladys Knight and some serious Diana Ross disco. The setlist for Farah Alvin on Vinyl is a plethora of musical styles from the decade many remember as the one with the best music, and Ms. Alvin adapts to each different style with ease and equanimity, whether it is the rolling ease of "At 17" or the rocking intensity of "As" - and with every one of the musical numbers, Ms. Alvin brings not only her inimitable, incomparable vocals, she brings her true personality, overflowing with wry wit, and defiant indignation. Who else would choose to sing the famed ballad "Don't Cry Out Loud" while pointing out the horrible message of repressing one's emotions? Farah Alvin. Who else would take out a few minutes in her set of happiness-inducing 70s tunes to shine a spotlight on the overwhelming misogyny of magazine advertising from the era? Farah Alvin. These are just two examples of Alvin's wickedly wonderful sense of humor and how it plays into her onstage creation.
Spoiler alert: it plays to perfection.
When Farah Alvin sings, the technique of her skills is so unique that, at times, it's almost as though you can see the music coming from within her. If Ms. Alvin were a person on a Loony Tunes cartoon (ok, maybe Warner Bros.) when she sang, musical notes would fly out of her mouth and float around her head. The instrument with which she is working is almost mystical, so unbelievable is the clarity and quality of sound, and watching her make these notes live is like being at Carnegie Hall watching Isaac Stern. A person could go mad trying to figure out how she does it, where the sounds come from - it's almost freakish, what Farah Alvin can do with her voice. So the best thing to do is sit back and enjoy a voice that could, easily, be named the eighth wonder of the world.
Joining Alvin on the stage is a band made up of some of the finest, including Owen Yost on Bass, Brandon Wong on drums, and musical director Michael Holland - a wonder with a piano and guitar, providing background vocals and stunning arrangements. It is clear Farah knows how to pick 'em, because this super-fly band, out of sight Farah and the entire evening are guided by Marc Tumminelli who steers Alvin through some serious dramatic offerings, musically, and back into the light with the humor of her personality, a personality so endearing that her flawless backup singers, Jeanine Bruen and Kristin Dausch, spend their non-singing moments gazing lovingly at the Woman With the Big Voice, like she's their big sister and idol.
Farah Alvin on Vinyl is less of a show and more of an experience - it's a tidal wave of emotions and enjoyment. The music is timeless and can be appreciated by anyone, not just those lucky people who lived through the era and have these tunes in their blood -- some of the younger guests spotted at the concert fit, easily, into the age range of 5 to 15, and they were all having as much fun as the, shall we say, more seasoned music lovers. There is no way to not be entertained by Farah Alvin, so thrilling are her vocals, but she is also refreshingly real with the crowd, speaking humorously on subjects like bad New York Times reviews garnered by some of the Broadway shows in which she has appeared, or the unexpected response elicited from a boy to whom she once professed her love. Belly laughs and guffaws, that's what you get at a Farah Alvin show. And socio-political commentary. And dancing. Farah Alvin goes where the music takes her - there is no holding back. At times she owned the stage as though Tina Turner were up there dancing to Proud Mary - not one of the songs from the evening, but had Farah Alvin chosen to sing some Tina Turner, it might have been too much for The Green Room 42. The already groovy evening might have gone full-on rock concert.
Farah Alvin on Vinyl is currently not scheduled for further performances. When new show cates are announced Broadwayworld will bring you the news. In the meantime...
To learn about all things Farah Alvin visit her Website
Photos by Stephen Mosher