Elena Shaddow Sings Maury Yeston's December Songs
Broadway enthusiasts who only know Maury Yeston from his scores for Nine, Grand Hotel, and Titanic may be surprised to learn that he has also developed a fine reputation in the world of classical music. His song cycle, December Songs, suggested by Schubert's Die Winterreise (a musicalized set of poems by Wilhelm Mueller, sung by a woman struggling to get over a difficult breakup) was commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation as part of the great landmark's centennial season.
Premiering in 1991 in Carnegie Hall's chamber room, Weill Recital Hall, December Songs was first sung by cabaret star Andrea Marcovicci, emphasizing the combination of art forms so evident in its material. A recent one-night performance by Broadway performer Elena Shaddow, this time at the intimate cabaret show room of The Encore, once again offered an artful blend of cabaret and classical sensibilities.
Most recently seen as the sweet Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, Shaddow's presence on the cabaret stage is one of warm, youthful grace. As is tradition with such pieces, the 10 song cycle was performed without applause until completion, and the performer never spoke with the audience, but as a fine singing actress, Shaddow communicated many complex emotions in a journey from initial heartbreak to eventual healing.
Directed by Michael Harrington with music direction by accompanist Bryan Perri, Shaddow displayed a lovely light soprano voice with a mature talent for phrasing. Standing at a microphone throughout, her acting was simple and specific, perfectly matched to the intimate room. This was a performance meant to draw in an audience, rather than play out to them.
Faded black and white photographs by Greg Kessler projected behind Shaddow added to the somber mood without distracting.
Though certainly not traditional cabaret fare, Elena Shaddow's interpretation of Yeston's work was a memorable evening of sweet melancholy.