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BWW Review: SUE MATSUKI: THIS BROAD'S WAY is a Love Letter to Broadway Dreams at Pangea

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Sue Matsuki Does Broadway Her Way

BWW Review: SUE MATSUKI: THIS BROAD'S WAY is a Love Letter to Broadway Dreams at Pangea

There is no more powerful force on earth than a dream deferred. Jazz singer Sue Matsuki came to New York from her hometown of Waterbury, CT to conquer Broadway. She had a trunk full of show tunes and a dream. But she found to her dismay that the carousel of auditions and cursory rejections was definitely not for her. She channeled her energies into creating shows for herself. And for years that's exactly what she's been doing, gathering a shelf full of awards along the way. She's performed in all the major cabaret venues in the city as well as in such high-toned places as Carnegie Hall and the Met. She is a respected teacher and the co-author of So You Want to Sing Cabaret. She created Jazz Brunch, a monthly cabaret open mic that has given a community of performers a safe space to develop material. Sue Matsuki is at the top of her game.

But Broadway dreams die hard. In her new show THIS BROAD'S WAY, which opened last evening at Pangea, she gets to sing all the Broadway tunes she ever wanted to sing, perform all the roles she would never be cast in, and do it all her own way. The songs are completely out of context and applied to her own experiences. She infuses each tune with her own wry wit and her lovely and warm jazz stylings. She is one part chanteuse, one part monologuist, one part den mother, and one part suggestive vixen. And she is 100 percent fun. Her show is a treasure trove of swinging tunes and she has gathered a smoking trio of musicians in drummer, David Silliman, bassists Skip Ward and her longtime partner in art, musical director Gregory Toroian.

She kicked off her look at the Great White Way with two classic Broadway love songs. She combined Bernstein's "It's Love" with the Gershwins' "Love Walked Right In" She explained her love of the boards in the very funny "Wanna Sing a Show Tune." She immediately switched into sexy territory with one of Broadway's most vampy numbers "Whatever Lola Wants." The twist? She was singing about the sweet cat she adopted. Unfortunately, for a very sad reason, she had to find a new home for this new friend. She said goodbye with "When I Look in Your Eyes" the gorgeous Leslie Bricusse song that Doctor Doolittle originally sang to a seal.BWW Review: SUE MATSUKI: THIS BROAD'S WAY is a Love Letter to Broadway Dreams at Pangea

She shared a secret from her early days. She confided that she was always attracted to a rough crowd and that her dating life centered around biker dudes. She told a story about one of them, doing a swing version of a song about one of Broadway's most notorious bad boys. She called her creation "The Ballad of Swingin' Todd." She pivoted into full film noir mode for Cy Coleman's enchanting "With Every Breath I Take." She gave us a wonderfully bratty version of "The Stepsister's Lament" from Cinderella.

She brought back a device she had used in a show from several years ago for a four-song story arc. She asked her friends to anonymously submit letters about what gave them happiness and then she added songs. She read a letter from a woman who married twice in the 50s. Her letter detailed the failure of both of those marriages and how she eventually found happiness writing poetry and in the arms of a woman. Matsuki depicted this fascinating woman with very smart readings of "Something Wonderful," "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm," "Dear Tom," and "So in Love." She took a moment to mention her many MAC awards, which she used for comic fodder in a really great Bossa nova arrangement of Stephen Schwartz's "Popular" from Wicked.

The centerpiece of the evening was a medley of Rodgers & Hart's "Where or When" and Sondheim's "I Remember" in which Matsuki told the story of her Scottish grandmother's gradual disappearance into Alzheimer's. Her performance was quite beautiful and quite heartbreaking. She gave us a little Cole Porter in a story about how her husband proposed to her in a very low-key and surprising way. She reacted to the moment with "From This Moment On. She talked about her traumatizing experiences going to auditions in her early days in New York. She used Barry Manilow's sensitive song "God Bless the Other Ninety-Nine" as a benediction from the grueling audition cycle. It was a beautiful full-circle ending to her show. Sue Matsuki may have never bathed in the Broadway limelight, but she is nonetheless centerstage and doing quite well.

BWW Review: SUE MATSUKI: THIS BROAD'S WAY is a Love Letter to Broadway Dreams at Pangea

THIS BROAD'S WAY performs again at Pangea at 7 pm on October 23rd and November 20th. For tickets and information go to pangeanyc.com To learn more about Sue Matsuki, visit suematsuki.com.


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