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Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

Kabarettist Susanne Mack was caught in the act as she closed a run of her latest show.

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

Susanne Mack

Fragments

Pangea

May 20, 2022

By Andrew Poretz

Susanne Mack, a German-born cabaret chanteuse, appeared at Pangea tonight for her final performance of Fragments, which played here a number of times since October 2021 to a packed room of fans, friends and family. Appearing in a lovely, flowing, chiffon gown designed by her friend, fashion designer Nina Hollein, Ms. Mack has a glow about her, and exudes a certain warmth that envelops the listener in a cocoon of musical love. She has a very pleasant voice with a vibrato reminiscent of the pop star Melanie.

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz
Andrew Poretz Photo

Ms. Mack describes Fragments as "a celebration of the resilience of all of us humans and our deep connectedness to one another in times of separation, disruption and confusion." This premise was wonderfully set up in the first few songs. The star arrived to the microphone and immediately began to sing "Everybody's Out of Town" (Burt Bacharach/Hal David), a 1970 song that presciently summons up stark images of Manhattan in the depths of the pandemic. She followed this up with an intriguing medley of the Genesis song "Land of Confusion" and the Dobie Gray hit "Drift Away," with a deft segue ("Day after day, I'm more confused"). By now, the audience was ready to be lifted out of this land of confusion, and Ms. Mack obliged, in stories and songs.

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz To set up "She's Leaving Home," a rarely covered Beatles song, Ms. Mack talked about her own daughter, who was present, and is about to go away to college. The song melded into Queen's "Leaving Home Ain't Easy," an inventive mashup that had Paul Greenwood providing the counterpoint of the Beatles' Greek chorus. A second Beatles song a short while later, "All You Need is Love," represented cleaning house, both literally and figuratively. A suggestion of removing things, and then putting back in the things that really matter, seemed like an awfully good idea. Though she prompted the audience with an "Everybody!" where it occurs on the Beatles record, the audience here was content to let Susanne sweetly sing the song with only Paul Greenwood's harmonies.

The most fun part of Fragments was "Sex and Chocolate." With a heart-shaped box of chocolate in hand, the star expressed her annoyance at too many people being "pandemic productive," whether learning a new language or a long-desired skill, while Ms. Mack simply ate too much chocolate, and too much of everything else. The song began with the reddish herring of the opening line of "Pure Imagination" (from Willy Wonka). While sung in English, this is the kind of funny, slightly bawdy song you might have heard in German cabaret almost a hundred years ago.

Ms. Mack followed this with the musical question, "What About Today?" She asserted that if this is as good as it gets, "then let's make the most of it." The arrangement was a bit breezier than the last few that preceded it.

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz In a poignant gesture, Ms. Mack dedicated "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" to the late Barbara Meier Gustern, one of her vocal coaches, who was a recent homicide victim. Susanne had sung this song for Barbara's husband at his memorial. It was an emotional moment for anyone who knew Ms. Gustern. (This writer reviewed a show produced by Ms. Gustern last year, starring Austin Pendleton and Barbara Bleier, in which she sang a song from the very spot where Susanne was standing, and was introduced to her only a week before the tragic event.)

The beautiful Fraulein Mack sang "La Mer," the original French song that was later made famous by Bobby Darin as "Beyond the Sea," as a slow, music-box ballad. The polyglot star sang tonight in English, German and French, but she can also sing in Italian.

In "Where Are We Now" (David Bowie), a song with multiple references to German locations, Ms. Mack inserted a monolog in the middle that pulled together the many fragments of Fragments.

As long as there's sun...
As long as there's rain
As long as there's fire
As long as there's me
As long as there's you

An upbeat final song of "I'm Still Standing" (Elton John/Bernie Taupin) was a jazzy, nearly swinging number, a welcome surprise after many a ballad. Although Ms. Mack does not identify as a jazz singer, she showed here that she has the rhythmic chops for it, if she wanted to dip her toe in those waters.

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

For the encore of "Que Sera, Sera," Ms. Mack invited the Pangea crowd to sing along on the choruses. With many performers in the audience, it was quite a group of backup singers. Since this was the final performance of Fragments, she opened the prop box of Russell Stover chocolates used earlier in the show, ate one, and passed the box into the audience.

Musical director and collaborator (along with Barb Jungr, who directed the show remotely from England) Paul Greenwood supplied not only excellent arrangements and solo piano accompaniment, but also a song voice, with harmonies and obligato on many of the songs, which added greatly to the performance.

Susanne Mack is a true old-world cabaret singer. In another time and place, as alluded to above, you might have caught the singer in a Weimar Republic cabaret show. Luckily for New York audiences, she has graced our stages for some 14 years. Brava!

Fragments

Directed by Barb Jungr

Musical director: Paul Greenwood

For more information about Susanne Mack, visit her website HERE.

For more great Pangea shows, visit the Pangea website HERE.

Pro-Shot photos of Susanne Mack used courtesy of photographer Evan Seplow

Review: Susanne Mack FRAGMENTS at Pangea By Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz Andrew Poretz, "The Boulevardier of Broadway," is an entertainer (singer, guitarist, ukulele player and storyteller), producer, and a reviewer of jazz and cabaret shows, primarily for Theater Pizzazz. An early podcaster, his "Coaches' Corner on BlogTalkRadio" segments are still available on iTunes. Andrew has performed in prominent venues throughout New York and the Bay Area. Andrew is also a board member of The American Popular Song Society. His blog, "The Boulevardier," can be found at www.andrewporetz.com


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