BWW Reviews: Rosemary Loar's 'STING-Chronicity' at the Metropolitan Room Theatrically Reimagines the Songs of a Pop/Rock Icon
"I was at the Police Reunion Concert at Madison Square Garden in 2008 and the energy was through the roof," says vocalist/actress/writer Rosemary Loar at the start of her new show, STING-chronicity, at the Metropolitan Room. "We were 18,000 strong, each of us challenging ownership of this man's music." Loar feels special rapport with the oeuvre of Sting (Gordon Sumner, who was Police's lead singer and principal songwriter from 1977-1986, before he launched an incredibly successful solo career) as represented by her earlier show and CD, the celebratory Sting, Stang, Stung (see video of the 2010 show, below). "We're onto the same zeitgeist," Loar recently revealed in an interview. "We're both Catholics and some of his writing is about obsession, guilt and penance."
While that piece showcased Loar's interpretive vocal abilities, this one additionally offers a rich theatrical experience. Loar doesn't take the popular route by simply rearranging numbers. She re-contextualizes them, morphing into a series of characters that sing each song as it arises out of an imagined situation. Scene-setting monologues preface or are interspersed within each selection conjuring and coloring. The show is audacious, unique, well calibrated, and juicy. You'll never listen to Sting the same way again.
Come meet Bettina, Mia, Mia's mother, Danielle, Rosemary (Loar playing herself), Claire, Staci, Roxanne, Frances, Anne Rice, Angela, and Sting himself (names are projected on the scrim), replete with accents and attitudes in sympathy with lyrics.
Bettina is Cherman. "Oh der Stingher! I have flown in from Munchen to see you," the middle-aged groupie gushes, followed by a dazzled "Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic." It's broad comedy, lively and engaging. Danielle's "Ghost Story" heart wrenchingly concerns her father's death. Body language, facial expression, and passages of parlando nail it. (Loar often employs this very effective method.) Contrast of a lovely, Frank Ponzio's light piano (indicating memory?) to emotionally dark lyrics work well. Staci is in a hospital agonizing over pulling the plug. "If You Love Someone, Set Them Free." Music is a lush wail and prayer.
Apparently Loar sang back-up for Sting at a recording session. Recounting of the incident through her original "All I Could Do Was Sigh" is personal and charming. Suddenly self- conscious, she's impishly nervous and shy. Then a transition to Claire, who it seems, is Sting's lover (an unnecessary attempt to bring in the icon himself which occurs once again later and neither time feels right). Standing over him, annoyed as he falls back asleep, the character sings an up-tempo jazz rendition of "Shadows in the Rain." Loar gets doooowwwwn. Though she doesn't hit every note, vocally elastic versions of material are very much her own, true to lyric intent, never less than captivating, and the lady can scat!
An exuberant, dancey "Brand New Day," during which the artist palpably reaffirms her connection to the audience (Loar is terrific at this) is preceded by a gleeful monologue. "Ow! My back is on fire," Debbie complains. "I got a new tattoo covering Richie's name with a big butterfly . . . It was my fault. I cheated on him--a lot . . . all these dark, dreamy, abusive guys like a box of truffles." Wowza.
Roxanne's tandem tango-ish "Roxanne"/"Tomorrow We'll See" (with vocal help from Ponzio) is sassy and sizzling but only the tip of what emerges for Anne Rice's shadowy "Moon Over Bourbon Street." Here Loar, as the New Orleans-born Vampire Chronicles novelist, might be drunk, drugged or possessed. Sensual, jazzy torch elicits finger snapping, feline moves, and an upper register finish like a cat in heat. Loar closes with reference to the studio session mentioned earlier. It takes little coaxing to get the audience to sing "Sending out an S.O.S.," the chorus of "Message In a Bottle."
Some characters seemed a better fit than others. Mia and then her mother singing "Wrapped Around My Finger" struck me as weak links. The young girl's awareness of manipulating boys doesn't ring true. A suitor's gifting jellybeans makes her seem too young. Her mother feels redundant despite personality differentiation.
This is a show worthy of an Off-Broadway production. Though monologues could be honed, the piece is well written, skillfully performed, and extremely entertaining. Director Barry Kleinbort does an able job of encouraging Loar to flex within roles, yet not go over the top.
Robert Atwood, Mia Katz & Cheryl Stern, Matt Hoverman, Diana Amsterdam, Mike Folie--Monologues
Frank Ponzio--Musical Direction/Piano/Bongos/Arrangements
John DiPinto, Daryl Kojak-Arrangements
The Metropolitan Room 34 West 22nd St.
Venue Calendar: http://metropolitanroom.com/index.cfm
Upcoming shows: February 21, March 8, April 2