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BWW Review: Meri Ziev NEW WORDS Charms Audiences Via MetropolitanZoom

Meri Ziev is all heart, a fact that cannot be disguised in her online show.

BWW Review: Meri Ziev NEW WORDS Charms Audiences Via MetropolitanZoom

When the pandemic started I had only been at this job for a few months and my routine was simple enough: show up at the clubs, see the shows, write about them. When we all went into lockdown and there were no shows to see, I began writing about the artists, doing interviews, discovering who they were, and social media was very good for researching these performers of concerts and cabaret, as I prepared to interview them. One by one, the Facebook and Instagram pages of the cabaret community taught me more about its members than I would have learned from simply seeing their shows and listening to their CDs - not an anticipated result of the job when I accepted it, but these were extraordinary times and every rule and expectation any of us had before the pandemic went quickly out the window. A year later, I have impressions and not-so-preconceived notions about who many of these fine folk are, and over the weekend I had a chance to see if Meri Ziev is who I think she is.

Turns out I was right.

Through the life-and-career-saving streaming platform MetropolitanZoom, artists have continued to work and shine their light, and Ms. Ziev joined the roster of artists who have come to appreciate the ease of connecting with fans and continuing one's craft, courtesy of virtual entertainment. At the same time, this writer got to see the Florida-based cabaret performer in action for the first time and learn that, with Meri Ziev, what you see is what you get: a kind, sweet, tender-hearted woman with a love for life, family, and making music - all information available on the Facebook Machine. But with Facebook you don't get the music that comes with a live performance - even if it's a live performance happening in a virtual medium - and with Meri Ziev, you want the music

NEW WORDS is Meri's show about the life, family, and language that she loves, and throughout the hour-long show, Ms. Ziev uses her pretty mezzo soprano to apply some of her favorite songs to the stories she has come to tell - stories about her youth, her courtship and marriage, having children, teaching, learning... the sort of stories each of us has and will find relatable. Guided in ways meticulous but not restricting by savvy director Faith Prince and superhero musical director Bobby Peaco, Ms. Ziev covers a range of musical material, from standards to rock and roll, the latter for which she has a somewhat surprising aptitude. Ziev is especially comfortable with the theatrical aspect of nightclub performing, but during her spoken portions of the evening, noting her gregarious and friendly nature, one can't help but wish for a day when it is possible to see her interact with her audience: there is little doubt that reciprocal feelings of love and friendship flow freely between Ziev and the people out front. She is a ball of sunshine, from start to finish, one impossible to resist.

It's clear that Ziev has strong senses of humor and humanity - she smiles throughout the entire show; even when the smile isn't actually present on her face, her goodwill pervades the air. Meri's optimism leads the entertainment, followed closely by a playful nature that is most present in two rather epic medleys, the first one a look at her decades-long marriage as seen through the pastime of dancing, the second a reminiscence of her theatrical career playing mothers. These medleys are a strong indication of Meri's penchant for the lighthearted, a quality verified through several of the other numbers in the show, but thankfully her interest in more thoughtful, heartfelt compositions also makes an appearance, particularly in the title song, which takes on a double meaning for the speech therapist, and a simple, straightforward rendering of this writer's favorite moment in the evening, the song "Fade Into You." It isn't easy picking a favorite moment in the evening, either, because this classically trained singing actress really packs a one-two punch at the end of the show with the pop music by re-examining Pat Benatar's "We Belong" and Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" in arrangements that serve to present the song to the audience, as if for the first time.

Speaking of first times, it is here, in NEW WORDS that Meri Ziev introduced this writer to one of the loveliest songs I think I've ever heard, and there is little doubt in my mind that anyone could perform it better. It's a gorgeous number called "The Middle" that has very personal meaning to this actor and mother, and the performance of the ballad is patently informed by both those sides of her personality; it's a most moving and memorable moment, destined to stay with viewers. While much of Meri's act leans into the theatrical (with carefully scripted punchlines and winks at the camera) this number and "Fade Into You" ground this artist in ways physical, vocal and emotional that were especially effective, showing an appealing side of Meri that leaves the audience wanting to know more.

And more of Meri Ziev is always going to be a great thing.

Meri Ziev NEW WORDS is directed by Faith Prince, musical directed by Bobby Peaco and features arrangements by Mr. Peaco, Phil Hinton, Christopher Denny, and aDAM j. Rineer.


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