BWW Review: Lianne Marie Dobbs Is The Ultimate Chanteuse In WHY CAN'T A WOMAN BE MORE LIKE A MAN...? at The Green Room 42
The young man stood in the elevator, staring straight out in front of himself in a dazed manner, and after a few moments he said: "She's a star." I (and some others on the elevator) turned to look at him; he glanced my way and asked, "How does she do that?" I shook my head gently because there is no real answer to his question -- except this: she's a star.
"Star" is a word thrown around far too liberally these days, and this has been the case for quite a while. A singer or a dancer can be told during their initial audition for a television talent show "You're a star" by a panelist who sees hundreds of performers in a single day. Personalities who appear on reality TV shows are called "stars" but they have no perceptible talent. Social media influencers are called stars but they don't do anything to warrant the praise bestowed by the moniker. There are those, though, who really are stars, those who not only perfect their artistry through the tools of their trade, but those who are born with a little something extra, be it a particular spark that makes them stand out, or a tenacity that helps them make it to the top of their game. Whatever their trajectory, wherever they may be in that journey, these people have what it takes and when a young man in an elevator, still hypnotized by a performance that ended ten minutes earlier, utters the words "She's a star" about someone, it must be taken for granted that he speaks the truth.
Last night at The Green Room 42 Ms. Dobbs debuted her self-conceived, self-penned, self-directed show WHY CAN'T A WOMAN BE MORE LIKE A MAN...? After an intimate one-night tryout last fall at The Beach Cafe, Ms. Dobbs determined that the show was ready to be given the full treatment, so she and her musical director/mentor Ron Abel brought the show to the much larger TGR42, where Dobbs devotees flocked to see what she has created, only to find that the creation is an honest-to-goodness emerging work of art. No mere solo show is Why Can't a Woman - this show is equal parts cabaret, TED Talk and feminist rally, the result being a 90-minute one-woman show that theaters and nightclubs around the country and the world would be clamoring to book into their venues. Immaculately scripted, Why Can't a Woman takes advantage of each sentence and every single word to tell the story and stories that Ms. Dobbs wishes to tell, the biggest one being a story of gentle and respectful feminism, the other 15 stories being individual ones designed to illustrate the greater picture -- and how elegantly and astutely it was illustrated.
Lianne Marie Dobbs has chosen 17 songs to use in her discussion of women, of their strength, their vulnerability, their complexities, their necessities, indeed many different parts of The Woman are highlighted in her show, but not only by these songs of varying genres, because every segment of Why Can't A Woman begins with LMD choosing a volume from a stack of books on top of the piano, a book from which she reads a passage that speaks about what it is to be a woman. Naturally, most of these books are by women, and it is obvious that Dobbs has read every book, some of them repeatedly. There will be no mention of one title nor one author in this article: future audiences of Why Can't A Woman deserve to have the journey unfold before them in real-time. Listening to Lianne Marie Dobbs read, so passionately and poignantly, from the works of literature that have shaped who she is as a woman is as relevant to the trajectory and enjoyment of this show as are the musical selections that she and Mr. Abel have used to create the road upon which that journey is being taken (in some of the greatest arrangements Abel has created since Linda Purl sang "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me"). Perfect marriages exist in these pairings of written words from 200 years ago or from one year ago to music originally performed on Broadway, on the radio, or on the stage of the Grand Ol' Opry. With this show, Ms. Dobbs proves that she can sing in any style but that, whatever the genre of music to which she lends her voice, she is an actor first, and that every one of the 15 scenes in her one-act play is going to be given the full treatment, for the benefit of her audience, an audience that could not get enough of Dobbs and her artistry.
It is fitting that Lianne Marie Dobbs would quote famous literary women and sing songs created by beloved musical artists because, all the while being the uniquely individual LMD, this star sprinkled in hues and moods that called to mind Rita Hayworth, Bette Midler, Nancy Wilson, Katharine Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Julie Andrews, and Donna Murphy. It was as though Ms. Dobbs had performed a rite of positive feminism, calling to her all of the goddesses, angels, and divas -- no, all of the women who inspire and guide her, and if that is the case, then this rite must be performed regularly because it is clearly working for her. Last night Lianne Marie Dobbs owned the stage, the room, the show, and the crowd by sharing her passion for storytelling, music, feminism, her fellow women, and her passion for sharing herself with her audience by deftly and seamlessly weaving in the musical compositions with the prosaic passages, as well as her personal stories, recounted while looking all in the eye, one tenderhearted smile followed by one impish wink, reminding all that we are in this together, and that whatever we do, be it art, world affairs, or social intercourse, we will do it better together. There is an underlying message throughout all of Why Can't A Woman, superbly brought out by the words, the music, the lyrics, and the lady - it is a piece of theater that is classic and classy, like the strong, empowered woman who created it.
Learn about the great shows at The Green Room 42 by visiting their website
Photos by Stephen Mosher