BWW Review: LENA MOY-BORGEN: GLAM GIRL IN A GRUNGE WORLD Presents Perfection at Don't Tell Mama
The fourth time my guest turned to me and whispered "Genius", I thought thank goodness. It's always uncomfortable when you take a friend to a show and they don't like it, so I was relieved to hear that his estimation was favorable, especially since he is a respected member of the arts community. The truth is that I had already thought the word 'genius' a few times during the show, so having my opinion validated in that way was as pleasant as it always is. Nobody wants to be wrong. And, kids, when I chose to see Glam Girl in Grunge World, not only was I not wrong: I was right.
It started with the advertising. Every person who wants to do a club act should investigate the marketing of their show. Lena Moy-Borgen either did that or she has great instincts. With a title like Glam Girl in a Grunge World, Moy-Borgen needed a photo that would tell potential audiences what they were getting into, and a simple picture of a girl with Donna Reed's hairdo, Ava Gardner's fire engine lipstick, Kitty Carlisle Hart's pearls... and a Nirvana T-Shirt, well, it just did the trick. It told this writer "Go". So I did.
What followed last night at Don't Tell Mama was a perfect night of cabaret. No kidding, it really was. The show was entertaining from start to finish, the actress doing the entertaining had the talent to back up her presence on the stage, and the evening clocked in at under an hour. Perfect.
When the curtain rises on a show, the audience has three questions in their heads: Why am I here? What's in it for me? When can I go home? Ms. Moy-Borgen answers those questions right out of the gate by marching confidently up onto the stage in an outfit of vast contrast, reminding you that she is a glam girl in a grunge world, she powerfully launches into her first song "One Hand In My Pocket", after which she begins a story about her childhood. We are here to witness the talented telling of tales, out of it we will get to know the effervescent woman before us, and we can go home when the girl in the stories is grown up and living her best life. And in this seamlessly constructed night of theater, Moy-Borgen provides all of that with vast quantities of energy, humor, and frankness. Everyone has stories about their youth and the school days that shaped them, most of them unhappy ones about overcoming the struggle of not fitting in. Indeed, Ms. Moy-Borgen's is just such a story - but with so interesting a person as she was at the age of twelve, the story of her life proves to be wonderfully entertaining and completely worthy of the time it takes to hear it. Not everyone has a life compelling enough to listen to them talk and sing about it for an hour. Lena Moy-Borgen not only has had a fascinating life, she's had an intriguing family and she has a knack for discussing them in ways so enjoyable as to hold an audience in her hand. Then, when she's got them right where she wants them, she hits them with a fabulous musical performance that boggles the mind.
With the stories of her yellow Casio boombox, cheerleader tryouts and tons of community theater Sweeney Todds interwoven with the songs she is singing, Moy-Borgen stakes her claim as a star of the cabaret scene. With comedy shows, solo shows, duo shows, group shows and a MAC award nomination on her resume, Moy-Borgen certainly has experience, but with theater like this, it is time for her to be playing clubs in other cities, contributing performances to The Cabaret Convention and appearing on the cover of Cabaret Scenes magazine. Ms. Moy-Borgen has a unique gift that is all her own and it must be shared and seen. Aside from her immense storytelling skills and considerable singing savvy, Lena Moy-Borgen knows how to write a show for maximum effect and enjoyment, including self-penned specialty material that whips and cracks as complicated lyrics fly out of her mouth with expert enunciation and perfect pitch. The story arc of Glam Girl in a Grunge World is orchestrated with impeccable timing, delivering to the audience an evening replete with relevant and relatable experiences, an observation made clear by the number of guests nodding along and murmuring "uh-huh" as they saw their own childhoods reflected in Moy-Borgens rhetoric. Anyone who ever had to survive being a misfit so that they could move to a place like NYC to live their best lives will find the story in Glam Girl in a Grunge World accessible.
Of particular note to this writer (and his plus one) is the genius way with which Lena Moy-Borgen and her incredible musical director Katy Pfaffl have embodied the title of the show by, repeatedly, mixing musical metaphors in medleys that marry musical theater with modern pop songs. Three times last night we found ourselves shaking our heads and wondering where Lena Moy-Borgen has been all our lives; and while I would like to tell you the names of the songs she sang, I am opting out of it because future audiences of Glam Girl in a Grunge World deserve to have the same night the crowd at Don't Tell Mama had last night - one where the story and the songs unfold before you. There will be no spoilers today. What I can do is provide clues to what awaits at this flawless night of cabaret: The Mistress of Mash-up takes on Barbra Streisand, femininity, rap, and Manhattan, while the raconteur discusses Dawson's Creek, Sunset Boulevard and living in a Billy Wilder Bubble. With these topics and her talent, Lena Moy-Borgen has created cabaret consummate - providing audiences with a joyride extraordinaire and budding nightclub artists with a blueprint for how to get it just right.
Follow Lena Moy-Borgen on Twitter @lenamoyborgen
Photos by Stephen Mosher