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BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS

The Florida-based singer is finally a member of the Manhattan cabaret community.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS It has been quite a journey to get Meri Ziev to the nightclub stages of Manhattan. The Floridian was scheduled to open NEW WORDS before the pandemic, so, naturally, things were bookmarked until after the lockdown. There were some virtual presentations during the shutdown, and after the clubs reopened, the sunny soprano finally had her first night in New York City. Because of the (please excuse this word) weirdness of the times in which we were living when New Words had its premiere, Broadway World Cabaret was not able to attend Ziev's opening night. Now, Meri is getting to do some encore performances of her autobiographical musical cabaret, and BWW was happy to see the lady in action.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS The title New Words refers to an important part of Meri's life because she is a speech pathologist and self-proclaimed "word nerd" but this is not all that the show touches upon (although the singer could, easily, build an entire show around the topic, one suspects to great artistic success). The story Ms. Ziev wants to tell with her New York cabaret debut is a more comprehensive look at her life: her childhood with a father who absolutely adored her, the meeting of a man with whom she would share marital bliss for three decades (this year), the birth of her children and how their interest in theater gave her a life in community theater, and, yes, the childhood friend who inspired her to go into speech pathology. Using an appropriate (and appreciated) sixty minutes to tell these stories, applying to them famous songs from musicals like Chicago, Hairspray, and South Pacific, as well as pop songs, folks songs, and a Disney anthem, Ziev and crackerjack Musical Director Christopher Denny bring the audience into her world of optimism.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS Ziev makes fun of herself for her sunny disposition, mentioning that people have teased her with comparisons to "Pollyanna" and words like "perky," and it is more than clear that optimism is the center of Meri's strength. Audience members would be advised to accept it and enjoy it. In life and in the arts, a person has to ride the train that wants to take them - and Meri Ziev is on the Hope Train. Audiences can take comfort in the fact that this is not an act for the benefit of their hour with Meri - it is authentically who she is. Also authentic to who Meri Ziev is is the presentation on the stage of a Lady. In an era when nightclub performers are comfortable going out on the stage in the clothing they might wear to take out the trash, Meri Ziev put some thought into what would go on her back before her public appearance. Looking like a million bucks, Ms. Ziev is every inch a professional cabaret singer, putting her best face forward and sipping her obligatory water from a wine glass, rather than slurping it from a plastic bottle or sports bottle, as so many others do these days, a habit this writer considers tacky, tacky, tacky. Meri Ziev has created for herself and her audience a slick cabaret show, easy to look at, and sweet on the soul. The sweetness is clearly Meri Ziev's brand - but it isn't all there is. Yes, it takes up the majority of the program, especially when considering how much love there is in conversations about her family that inform most of the program. But when Ziev sits down to sing a deeply moving "House of the Rising Sun" the audience is given a glimpse into a more somber side of the singer, as well as some fabulous lower tones that don't get full exposure in Denny's soprano-styled arrangements. Equally impressive changes in Ziev's singing style come when she is tasked with singing a song from her youngest child Jace Ziev's musical "My Own Worst Enemy." In real-life, Meri Ziev is very open and supportive about the fact that she has a trans-non-binary child, so when she outlines the story of My Own Worst Enemy before singing the song "The Middle" it is clear to the audience that this is an incredibly personal moment for her - and that informs her performance to a place so deep within as to make this moment the highlight of the show.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS Other highlights include a wonderful story about Meri and her father painting together, an exciting re-arrangement of the pop song "Brave," and the title song, which took on resonant levels when Meri took her eyes off of the horizon line (where they spend a little too much time), choosing to look right into Jace's eyes. The human connection between the two people changed the energy in the room, bringing electricity to the proceedings that could extend to Meri and all of her audience if she gave each person in the seats out front a chance to be sung to while gazing into her lovely eyes.

New Words is a nice slice-of-life show about a woman with heart, hope, and humor (Ziev is really funny, especially when she breaks from the script and lets her whimsy out). It's a solid New York City cabaret debut for Meri that gives Manhattan audiences an introduction to who she is as an artist and a woman. It will give her permission to work with director Lina Koutrakos on a follow-up outing requiring less backstory, providing opportunities to show off her skills as a musical storyteller and opening the door to artistic evolution sure to be supported by the cabaret community of Manhattan, where she is rapidly making a name for herself.

New Words plays Don't Tell Mama on March 13th at 7 pm. For information and reservations visit the Don't Tell Mama website HERE.

Meri Ziev can be found online HERE.

New Words includes a credit of Artistic Consultant for Faith Prince.

Meri Ziev gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS

BWW Review: Meri Ziev Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with NEW WORDS

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher