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BWW Review: The Superb Musicality of AMY BETH WILLIAMS at Don't Tell Mama

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BWW Review:  The Superb Musicality of AMY BETH WILLIAMS at Don't Tell Mama

Before we go any further; if you've yet to experience the magic of Amy Beth Williams, the superlative cabaret singer now making a welcome return to Don't Tell Mama, put aside this page, do yourself a favor and make a reservation.

Don't worry, we'll wait.

In a city where talent abounds, the chance to experience a true master of the genre is actually surprisingly rare. Cabaret, despite contrary belief, is not dead; indeed there are more venues and more interesting and gifted offerings in the City-That-Never-Sleeps than we've seen in perhaps the past twenty years. But as properly defined, there has always been a difference between a cabaret artist and say, a nightclub act or a Broadway performer moonlighting between gigs. Not perhaps a difference in talent. But in a difference of skill.

The tradition of the chanteuse; that rare creature who can like some magic vocal-nic fishermen capture and harness real feeling: melody, lyric and story into a pinpoint moment with little more than a few feet of stage (and if she's lucky some inspired musicians) brings to mind those incandescent women often distilled to but a single moniker, like Piaf, Mercer, Hildegarde...

What these great cabaret artists have always had is voice, what they have had is the gift of interpretation and phrasing, and what they have always had, as if by lightning in a bottle, is that intangible gift of intimate audience connection and identification.

And when we take this definition and apply it to the greats of now (and there are some) in simple parlements, it's easiest to put it thus: you will not find a better cabaret artist in New York City today than Amy Beth Williams. Winner of the M.A.C. Hansen Award and 2 Bistro Awards for Outstanding Vocalist, Williams, with both hair and voice of silver, is simply (and in every way) a sensational singer.

With her new show, AMY BETH WILLIAMS SUGGESTS: MEET ME AT THE BAR, we also discover some things about the multifaceted entertainer we didn't know. A renowned professor of theatre and voice at Wagner College, Williams splits her days keeping the American Songbook alive for students who may not know, and surprisingly, her nights mixing cocktails at a swanky hotel to guests who may not know better. MEET ME AT THE BAR, is of course, musically themed around the inner life of the latter, and in that exploration we find the extraordinary performer at the peak of her vocal and interpretive powers.

At its heart an evening about the fascinating nature of connection, and the simple truth that often we are more comfortable disclosing our inner most feelings to those passersby (like bartenders) we hardly know, Williams, warm and supreme throughout, mixes an intoxicating brew.

Blessed with a fantastic jazz combo (Scott Thornton / Bass and Daniel Glass / Drums) by her side and Jeff Harris providing expert musical direction and world class arrangements, in Williams' gifted hands, the thematically inevitable ("One for My Baby," "Cocktail for Two, "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry") and the unexpected ("Time in a Bottle," "Feelin' Good," "It's a Jungle Out There") playfully weave together in deeply satisfying musical exploration, while stand alone monologues like Michel Legrand's probing "The Windmills of Your Mind" and Billy Barnes' Blanche DuBois-esque, "Something Cool" showcase Williams' laser sharp articulation and incredible vocal and emotional range to dazzling effect.

It perhaps should come as no surprise, in all of this, that Amy Beth Williams' director and leader on this project is the inimitable Marilyn Maye (when we speak of the 'cabaret greats of now,' go ahead and pencil her name by that asterisk). The evening is enveloped with the exceptional style, wit and craft we have come to know from her.

In truth, the likes of Maye don't come around much anymore. Like all things that are living and breathing, the artform of cabaret is ever evolving. But when that extraordinary entertainer like Amy Beth Williams comes along - reminding us of the magic and skill at the heart of the great tradition - Go ahead. It's okay to drop everything and run. Some things, after all, are worth waiting for.


Amy Beth Williams: MEET ME AT THE BAR, October 14 and 21, 2019 at Don't Tell Mama.

For more information on Amy Beth Williams visit her website


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