BWW Review: Julie Reyburn Is Magic in ANYWHERE WE ARE at Don't Tell Mama
At the very back of a dimly lit dinner club with live music, is a little brick room. It's in this intimate space that Julie Reyburn alternately amazed the audience with her singing prowess and entertained them, thanks to her sharp wit and incisive social commentary.
The room itself is cozy - bordering on cramped - rows of round two-tops with just enough room for drinks and my elbows as I scribbled notes. At the end of the room sits a low stage with a piano for music director Mark Janas, microphone for Reyburn, and set-up for the rest of the band, flutist and vocalist David Ballard, as well as bassist and vocalist Ritt Henn. The room was all but full 10 minutes before the show's start, and by the time Reyburn was announced, excited applause broke out from everywhere. She reached the stage, exhaled a deep breath, and ANYWHERE WE ARE, Reyburn's first cabaret show in eight years, took Don't Tell Mama's Brick Room by storm.
Within seconds, it became clear that this show was going to be a treat. Reyburn seemed to experience every feeling the music is meant to elicit in the listeners, and watching her perform became all the more emotional. In the middle of "Twentieth Century Blues" (Noel Coward), Reyburn interrupted herself to read off a series of satirical 21st-century headlines, to the delight of the audience. Afterward, she spoke a few words, sharing the three things she believes are important for keeping up the fight during these days: "Vote, believe in science, and make art."
The setlist was comprised of songs that tied into the theme of unconventional women, interspersed with stories from Reyburn's life, and those of the unconventional women who shaped her.
The performance of "Blackbird" (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) was a stand-out of the evening. Reyburn and her band's voices synced up in perfect harmony as they crooned the stunning lyrics. While the music ebbed and flowed, it became a transformative experience, one that was truly breathtaking. Reyburn doesn't shy away from the big, soaring music, the kind that does steal your breath; nor does she avoid the conversational almost-speaking type of song, like "Putting It Together" from Sunday in the Park with George (Stephen Sondheim), which opened the show to impossible-to-repress laughter.
There was one slightly sour note, a performance of "Nina" (Noel Coward) complete with sombreros and jokes which rang a little off, but this was swiftly eclipsed by one of the high points of the show, "I Am Woman" (words by Helen Reddy, music by Ray Burton). The power of Reyburn's performance isn't just in the strength and clarity of her voice, though that's not to be undersold; it's in her deep understanding of the songs she sings, and as she treated the audience to "I Am Woman," one thing became clear: she may not have written the words herself, but she had lived them, which lent an immense depth of feeling to the pop classic. which isn't to say it was a purely emotional song. It was, like much of the show, great fun, especially when Reyburn encouraged the audience to sing along with her.
Fun is a good word to describe ANYWHERE WE ARE. Reyburn performs with a joy threaded through each note, each breath inhaled and exhaled, and that translates so well to the crowd. She laughed and was lighthearted when it was called for, but was equally able to slow down and explore beautiful, chill-inducing emotions, like in her performance of one of the final songs of the night, "Anywhere We Are" (Nichole Nordeman and Tommee Profitt).
Eight years may have passed since her last cabaret show, but Reyburn proves with ANYWHERE WE ARE that she hasn't lost a bit of the magic.