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BWW Review: JUST ONE LOOK: THE SONGS OF LINDA RONSTADT. Travis Moser Salutes the Legendary Rocker at The Green Room 42

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Travis Moser's loving tribute to Linda Ronstadt is a Rocking Good Time

BWW Review: JUST ONE LOOK: THE SONGS OF LINDA RONSTADT. Travis Moser Salutes the Legendary Rocker at The Green Room 42

I saw Linda Ronstadt for the first time sometime around the bicentennial when I was twelve years old. She was a frequent guest on Don Kirshner's "Midnight Special." This small woman in a black leather coat came out looking very shy and vulnerable. She opened her mouth and began to sing "You're No Good." All that vulnerability flew out the window and she became this strong, determined badass, who not only stood up for herself but for women everywhere. That was, and is, the magic of Linda Ronstadt. She is able to morph into whatever the song requires her to be, no matter what the style is. It's something alchemical.

It is a bold thing to set out to do a show that pays honor to Linda Ronstadt. Not only do you have to wade through hundreds of songs and dozens of hits. You also have to deal with a plethora of styles: rock, country, punk, big band, Broadway, bluegrass, mariachi, and pop; all of which she performed as if she was born doing it. She was one of the seminal women of rock and roll, a trailblazer who always followed the art and her heart.

But that is precisely the task singer Travis Moser sets for himself. The result is his show JUST ONE LOOK: THE SONGS OF Linda Ronstadt, which opened tonight at The Green Room 42. Mr. Moser is too young to have caught Ronstadt on the "Midnight Special," but his show is a very loving and passionate travelogue of most of the phases of her long and illustrious career. He doesn't attempt to imitate her phrasing or duplicate her riffs. Instead, he tells stories about her and talks about what her music has meant in his life, filtering it through his own style.

And his style is full-throated, full-vibrato musical theatre. Which is great since that was also one of Ms. Ronstadt's signature styles. To fill out some of the other colors in her extensive arsenal, Moser enlists the help of a few friends. Obie Award winner, Elijah Caldwell (A Strange Loop) gave us rock & pop Linda with "When Will I Be Loved?" and " I Don't Know Much." Bistro Award winner Jack Bartholet served up country and R&B Linda singing "Colorado" and "Tracks of My Tears." And Broadway World Cabaret Award nominee, Lillian Andrea De Leon gave us punk and bluegrass Linda with "How Do I Make You?" and "Blue Bayou," which she made all the more special by singing the second verse in Spanish.

Travis Moser himself is a gifted storyteller as well as an excellent vocalist, as he proved many times in the evening. Most notably in "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress. It is a very poetic lyric that he delivered with great emotion. He was also particularly effective in Jimmy Webb's "Still Within the Sound of My Voice," which opened this show. He found wistful energy in "Adios" and brought some world-weariness to "I'm Blowing Away." I especially enjoyed his reading of "What'll I Do?," the Irving Berlin tune from Ronstadt's popular "What's New?" album.

The only slight misstep in the evening might have been the choice to include Sondheim's "What Can You Lose?" He sang it to promote the album of Sondheim tunes he released during the pandemic with musical director, Drew Wutke, (Kinky Boots) who also did the fine arrangements for this show and skillfully conducted the 5-piece band. Although it's a glorious song, it has no connection to Ronstadt, so they performed it in a country style like Linda Ronstadt. The two are not an easy mix. But as I said, it was only a slight misstep. He quickly returned to core Ronstadt territory with a great rendition of "Desperado" and then did a charming audience sing-along to "Somewhere Out There," even passing out song sheets himself. It was a lovely ending to a lovely show that showcased Linda Ronstadt and Travis Moser in equal measure.

Although Linda Ronstadt is no longer recording, her voice is never in the past tense in my home. It makes me happy to know other people feel the same way I do. Thank you, Travis Moser, for that.

To read about everything Travis Moser is up to, go to travismoser.com or find him @TJMoser on Twitter or @travjames on Instagram. Travis Moser and Drew Wutke's album SO MANY PEOPLE: THE SONDHEIM SESSIONS is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other streaming platforms. To enjoy more great artists at The Green Room 42, visit greenfignyc.com.


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