BWW Review: Kathleen Turner Rises To New Heights With FINDING MY VOICE at The Green Room 42
Kathleen Turner would probably be the first person to tell you that the idea of her singing in a nightclub would be an unlikely scenario - but singing in a nightclub she is. Long known for her unique and unmistakable voice, this great American actress has never been one that the public would naturally associate with musical theater, cabaret, or record albums. In point of fact, hers is a quite musical voice, melodic and mellifluous, with interesting rhythms, uncommon speech patterns, and individual intonations, so the idea of Miss Turner raising her voice in song shouldn't be that great a reach for the imagination. Nevertheless, as the famous smoky whiskey baritone has deepened over the years, one might suspect that this was an avenue of the performing arts that would be left unexplored by the legendary lady whose work has been vastly celebrated for over four decades.
Never an artist to rest on her laurels, Kathleen Turner opted for the road unimaginably traveled and discovered a new voice, both physically and artistically, and audiences everywhere are showing up to hear how she sounds when she sings, and what she has to say when she speaks.
Finding My Voice is a one-woman show that Kathleen Turner developed in 2017 with Director Andy Gale and Musical Director Mark Janas after learning how much she enjoyed singing while playing Mother Courage. After the show's successful debut at The Philadelphia Theatre Company, the proper New York City venue for a star of Miss Turner's stature seemed to be The Cafe Carlyle, where her 2018 run was a repeated sell-out, night after night. Now, having played London and various cities in the US, Miss Turner returned to the New York cabaret stage last night to play, once more, to a sold-out house filled with enchanted and indebted fans.
Since its opening three years ago, The Green Room 42 has had a mission to provide cabaret and concerts that anyone can afford to see by keeping their prices reasonable, and by not maintaining a minimum food or drink charge. In the coup of his career as an impresario, Daniel Dunlow was able to get Kathleen Turner Finding My Voice for his club, and all of Miss Turner's fans who were unable to afford to see her at The Cafe Carlyle will be, forever, beholden to him, for this night of theater is one nobody should have to miss simply because they are not in the top one percent. Indeed, this is a night of entertainment for anyone because great storytelling will always benefit the audience.
And Kathleen Turner is a world-class storyteller.
In Finding My Voice, Miss Turner shares stories about her life, and about her life as an actor, and while most people are interested in hearing stories about a famous actor's experiences on the sets of their most famous movies, not everyone is prone to stay alert while a stranger is talking about their childhood. After all, many people do not have childhood lives that are interesting enough to be used as fodder for a one-person show, and listening to those people talk about their school days might err on the side of boring. That can never be said about Kathleen Turner, one of the least boring people one is likely to meet, ever. The stories Miss Turner tells about her childhood are wildly entertaining, filled with adventures that most pre-teens don't even know are possible, and they are tales told with some poignancy but, mostly, with a lot of expertly timed humor. Beyond these stories of the developmental years of her life, Miss Turner's show focuses on her activism, her artistry, and the never-ending balancing act that is being an everyday woman and one of the biggest movie stars of all time. An author with two books to her credit, Miss Turner's writing in Finding My Voice is an exemplary display of how to use your narrative in your show to maximum effect. At no time does her rhetoric become redundant, she is economic and to the point, using precisely the right amount of prose to please the audience before jumping into her next musical number, of which there are some 15, outstandingly arranged and played by Mark Janas, who supports Miss Turner like a big brother who has her back at every minute, as do Bassist Ritt Henn and Guitarist Jeff Barone. In short, Kathleen Turner has created the perfect cabaret show, structuring the flow of monologue into music so seamlessly that at times one might forget to clap, for fear that the fascinating and funny lady might say something that one might miss. The one-woman show is actually a prime candidate for the Broadway stage, not unlike Elaine Stritch At Liberty or Bea Arther On Broadway Just Between Friends. Fortunately for fans, Miss Turner has made a generous choice to play her show in the intimate nightclub setting, allowing for the opportunity of really getting close to her and feeling the personal touch, rather as though in her living room at a party where friend after friend asks her to "tell the story about that time...."
And this is storytelling par excellence, with Miss Turner extolling the virtues of traveling the world in plays, then using the song "Sweet Kentucky Ham" to illustrate the loneliness of being away from home, or painting a delicate image of a young mother standing in her 10th Street apartment holding her baby girl while singing "On The Street Where You Live" to her. No musical choice has been miscalculated in Finding My Voice, and Kathleen Turner's ability has not been underestimated by any member of her creative team, least of all herself. Hers is a beautiful singing voice that has limitations, and still, Miss Turner challenges herself with selections that would intimidate singers with a longer history of vocal training, songs like "Since I Fell For You" and "Moonshine Lullaby" or this writer's favorites of the evening, a sigh-inducing "I'd Rather Be Sailing" and possibly the most heartfelt "Send In The Clowns" ever, made incredibly personal by the story Miss Turner tells to set up the Sondheim classic. With each song, Kathleen Turner delivers the goods, as an actor, as a singer, as a storyteller. It is clear that, in preparation for becoming a nightclub singer, Miss Turner added bona fide singing vocal coaching to the impeccable voice training she obtained for her work as a stage actress, and that she and her co-creators have judiciously chosen when melodies or notes should be changed to accommodate her vocal range, or when a word or sentence should be spoken, rather than sung (something that happens rarely, as Kathleen Turner is always equal to the task). Is every note perfect? No. But every note IS beautiful. Because every note, every word, every inflection, every nuance, every single moment in Finding My Voice comes from a place of absolute authenticity and unquantified honesty, making Finding My Voice a show as appealing, as refreshing, as moving, as beautiful as Miss Turner is today, has always been and will always be.
Finding My Voice is a show that every lover of cabaret, storytelling or Kathleen Turner should see, as well as every person with a wish to perform in cabaret because whether an artist intends to tell their own story in their show or just sing a series of Jason Robert Brown songs that they love, any artist can learn from Kathleen Turner's Finding My Voice, how to be honest, how to be open, and how to connect to their audience. Kathleen Turner set an imposing task for herself with her decision to enter this particular arena of show business, and the world of cabaret is so much the better for it.
Of course, one should expect nothing less from Miss Kathleen Turner.
Find The Green Room 42 online at their website
Photo by Amy Boyle provided by Kathleen Turner