BWW Review: Maureen Taylor Casts A Spell With COSMIC CONNECTIONS at Don't Tell Mama
"I like stories. I like telling stories."
The admission was an unnecessary one, for the style and fervor with which Maureen Taylor tells her stories are proof positive of her love for the art form, and her passion for her part in the craft. Nevertheless, it was a welcome moment in COSMIC CONNECTIONS because it gave her audience another reason to smile, as she slyly confessed that which she knew we already knew. It's all part of the story and the telling of the story.
Cosmic Connections is a very adult cabaret in which Ms. Taylor speaks of very adult things. The play is ostensibly a tribute show to lyricist and librettist Michael Colby but during the course of the 70-minute musical entertainment, Taylor covers a wide range of topics involving her life, his life and the effect his life has had on her life. A most fascinating woman whose mere existence and the adventures springing therefrom could serve as fodder for many an enjoyable night in a cabaret theater, Maureen Taylor makes the brave and daring choice to never, at any time, pander to her audience. During this incredibly melodic act (clearly Mr. Colby has great taste in collaborators) Ms. Taylor changes conversation topics like a willow blowing in the wind, and the audience will either keep up or get lost, but what a way to wander through the woods. Ever the aesthete, Maureen Taylor speaks of her attraction to psychic studies and numerology, as well as her devotion to Mr. Colby's artistry, to say nothing of her fascination by his history with the famed Algonquin hotel and the notables who passed through its' doors. She is a woman of many parts, one you could easily become besotted with, whose fanciful nature flows alongside a vast intelligence exposed at every turn in the journey she lays bare for her willingly captive audience. When Maureen Taylor sat down to write Cosmic Connections, she had to know that this was a journey so personal that audience members would fall in line, no matter what the obstacles.
And there is an obstacle.
A writer of talent and note, Mr. Colby is not quite apt to be well-known by everybody looking for a club act with which to while away the time on a weekend free from commitment. Any singer putting up a Johnny Mercer show or a Hal David night or a Fred Ebb tribute would have no difficulty filling seats and keeping the attention of the people sitting in those seats. It can, though, be tricky when a club act presents an entire evening of new material. Audiences are reluctant to work so hard as to listen to sixty-plus minutes of songs they don't know. It's a lot of work, sitting there listening to one song after another and having to pay attention. People need the respite of a "Fly Me To The Moon" or an "Embraceable You" because when someone hears a song they already know, they can relax into the story they have experienced repeatedly and be carried away on the melody and their memory. A show that requires rapt attention from start to finish can be tiring; people don't have the attention span they once did, and it's a lot of listening. Ms. Taylor manages to include a little Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh and some Strouse/Adams to take the pressure off of Mr. Colby and her audience. You know what, though?
It didn't matter.
The inclusion of the more well-known songs was lovely but it didn't matter because Maureen Taylor is that engaging a storyteller and Mr. Colby is that good a songwriter. An evening of Michael Colby songs performed by Maureen Taylor is an entertainment that stands on its' own. The actress has a very clear connection to the writer's intent in his poetry, thus making her a highly capable interpreter of his lyrics, as has been witnessed many times throughout the ages, when a singer and a songwriter hear each others' music in just that perfect way. Happily, for the composers with whom Mr. Colby works, Maureen Taylor possesses more than just a great intuition for lyrical storytelling, she is also blessed by one of the prettiest soprano voices this writer has heard in a nightclub. While speaking, Ms. Taylor is extremely precise, with exact elocution and almost a whisper of a timbre to her tone, but when breaking out into song, one is treated to a power that might leave on the face an expression of absolute surprise. Many things about Cosmic Connections will surprise Maureen Taylor's audience.
The content of Cosmic Connections is so eclectic, at times even esoteric, with songs and stories contained in a personalized vacuum, that it can feel like one of Maltby and Shire's revues, the big story arc being a bit nebulous and living in the gray area, while the individual anecdotes are powerful enough to carry the audience into the next one without need of explanation or hand-holding. That is because Cosmic Connections is an adult cabaret, as Maureen Taylor is a grown woman, one with a mission to provide a completely unique and individual experience for each member of her audience.
Cosmic Creations is well directed by Frank Galgano and wonderfully musical director by Matt Castle. The show has one final performance at Don't Tell Mama on December 29th at 2 pm. Tickets available Here When future dates are announced, Broadwayworld will bring you the news.
Learn about Michael Colby Here
Photos by Stephen Mosher