BWW Review: Lauren Frazza Leaves Crowd FEELIN' GOOD at Pangea
When Lauren Frazza named her show FEELIN' GOOD she may, well, have been thinking about telling her audience the mood she was in, but what she was really doing was predicting the mood they would be in at the end of her show. A cabaret newcomer who debuted this maiden voyage in 2019, Frazza's performance on Friday night was her 7th time out with Feelin' Good so, by now, she should be really getting her sea legs, which she either had when she opened the show or she developed quickly during those six previous outings. With one of the most fascinating and entertaining setlists on record, one can't help but wonder how a neophyte to the art possessed the intricate wisdom to create a song cycle as powerfully curated to tell a relatable yet off-center story of who she is. Therein lies the answer to the question: Lauren Frazza may be at the start of her career, but she is not at the start of discovering who she is.
Lauren Frazza is a born entertainer.
If Ms. Frazza has waited this long to start her career as a cabaret singer, then she must have either previous experience as a performer or a personality made for performing - it would not surprise to learn that Frazza has both, one suspects she has done some time as a stand-up comic. Feelin' Good is actually structured a little like a stand-up comedy act, with a series of stories about her life, some funny and some touching, some with the messages comics like to slip into their acts, but always told with a slightly (or not so slightly, given the song and the message) larger-than-life persona. Though there is never a doubt that the stories Ms. Frazza is telling are absolutely reflective of her life and her life's interests, there is always a sense that the monologue delivery has been amped up for maximum comedic effect because more than half of the show is designed for humor. And it's funny; Frazza succeeds - if there were a musical about the life of a stand-up comic, she would be the woman to star. When the time comes to tone down the humor and focus on the more serious aspects of life, Lauren Frazza is equal to the task as well, keeping it all contained during "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and serving up a "She Used to Be Mine" that is all her own. Frazza is fortunate in the presence of director Geoff Stoner because she appears as a veteran artist, with perfect flow and focus, no distractions from her task or her timing; it's an effective partnership.
Frazza's partnership with Gregory Toroian is more than effective, it's superlative. Between the two of them, they are responsible for some arrangements so inventive and out of the ordinary as to leave audiences in a stunned state of delirium. One marvels at the way they have been able to re-think and re-invent "The Glory of Love" and "Here You Come Again," and while the former is more successful than the latter, this writer approves of the boldness in the arrangement of the Dolly Parton hit and appreciates Frazza's insistence at doing things her way. With the arrangement and performance of "You've Got a Friend," Frazza's intent to sing the more famous songs in her set in a completely new way is almost defiant, and though some members of the audience might find the drastically new versions unpalatable, others will praise them, as this writer is, because no artist should be asked to create in anyone's form but their own, which is exactly what Frazza and Toroian are doing, with some superb support from Skip Ward (bass) and David Silliman (drums). The musicality of Toroian and co. impeccably backing up her beautiful and versatile voice, Frazza is able to relax into the emotions being represented in each song and physically go where the story takes her, be it broad expressions during comedy numbers, or absolute stillness while performing Susan Werner or Kern/Hammerstein.
It's not every day of the week that an artist decides to do their first club act and then kills it on the first time out. It happens, but not every day. Feelin' Good is one of those times, though one surmises her first-night opening and her seventh performance Friday night would have to be different for Frazza, who still shows occasional nervousness. It can also be surmised, though, that with each new show Ms. Frazza will grow in many aspects of her club performing, meaning she will go from good to great. This is an auspicious debut for Lauren Frazza, and while she may be Feelin' Good, what she should be feeling is proud.
Lauren Frazza Feelin' Good currently is not listed for more performances but as soon as more are announced, Broadway World will bring you the news.
Photos by Stephen Mosher