BWW Review: Rebecca Ruttle at Laurie Beechman Theatre
Rebecca Ruttle brought something to her show that few performers in cabaret do: rock music (also known as an entire genre of music outside of Broadway, jazz, or pop). Always exciting to hear, music with that more "grunge appeal" rarely seems to make its way to cabaret rooms despite the appearance and success of shows like School of Rock and Rock of Ages on Broadway. While she also included the necessary ode to Disney and plenty of the requisite Broadway numbers, Ruttle strutted onto stage with the inspired confidence of any 80's power band with Pat Benetar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot."
From her opening number's unquestionable punch, Ruttle could do just about anything and earn high praise. And despite the fact that I would have loved another song where she challenged the crowd menacingly, she generally kept it tight and at times, her voice simply soared. These top moments came especially on her Disney and Broadway numbers, though her later pop songs also deserve mention. While she had glimmers of the spectacular in the first few songs, her performance of "Edelweiss" (Rodgers and Hammerstein) was particularly mesmerizing. In her words, it was one of the lullabies she and her parents sang when she and her sister were children, and her mastery of the song's subtleties showed. In addition, while early in the show she discussed feeling offended when given a boy song at a summer camp, her later performance of the Disney Hercules song, "Go the Distance" (Alan Menken) was likely my favorite of hers of the night. There is just something so breathtaking in the lines of "I have often dreamed of a far-off place/ where a heroes welcome will be waiting for me."
Ruttle had a good mix of ballads and up-tempo songs, which did feature a handful of pop songs that drove the show forward fast. The best example of Ruttle's pop blend would have to be Sia's "Chandelier" (Jesse Shatkin, Sia Furler). While Ruttle never really delved deeply into the challenges or obstacles that she has had to overcome over the years-instead choosing to focus more attention on the positive moments-she did take a moment to allude to the difficulty of moving to New York. And in no other song did the tension and grit of the New York grind show itself better than when Ruttle chanted rhythmically, "One, two, three, one, two, three, drink" before turning out soaring high notes for the chorus, "I'm gonna swing from the chandelier."
And in many ways that represents what New York is like as we all aim high. Ruttle was also joined for a tribute to Ohio, in the form of Bernstein's "Ohio" by Jamard Richardson and Coleman Hemsath. Steven Jamail took the piano and directed the music. Micah Burgess had guitar, Colin Dean had bass, and Ashley Baier was on drum patrol.