Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

If You Missed MISS Then You Missed It …

By: Dec. 17, 2022
Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y
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Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

Heigh-Ho, My Merry Rainbow Tribe! Bobby Patrick, your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in cabareT to bring you ALL the Tea...

...But this past weekend, my lovelies, Bobby's rainbow spotlight fell upon a concert performance at the venerable 92nd Street Y for LYRICS & LYRICISTS Present MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS. Fully co-conceived, written, directed, curated (just all the things) by composer/lyricist (singer/activist, producer/pianist - all the things) Georgia Stitt and her pal, actress/singer, director/Tony Award nominee (you get it) Kate Baldwin, MISS was a salute to the female composers of our Broadway musical stages, with a focus on those that have provided both the words and the music to their show endeavors. Finding the ladies of words and music necessitated a focus on the 1970s to the present day, as almost all the women songwriters of the so-called Golden Age were forced to collaborate with men, as the only way to get their words and/or music produced. Presenting a program that included the likes of Carol Hall, Elizabeth Swados, Anaïs Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles, and Stitt herself, as well as female teams Norman & Simon, Tesori & Kron, and Ford & Cryer (to name a few) the show featured performances by hosts Baldwin & Stitt and a cast of four additional singing actors:

Kennedy Kanagawa (INTO THE WOODS)

Bryonha Marie Parham (PORGY AND BESS)

Nicholas Rodriguez (COMPANY)

Emily Skeggs (FUN HOME)

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

This cast was four very gifted singing actors with Broadway street creds, who were all in fine vocal form for the evening. The structure of the presentation was a linear walk through the 20th-century history of women songwriters on The Broadway, calling out Kay Swift (FINE & DANDY, 1930), touching on a few of the women lyricists who collab'ed with men - Betty Comden, Dorothy Fields, and the like - jumping over the desert of women composers that was the 1930s -1959, when Mary Rodgers broke through with ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, a score she composed to Marshall Barer's lyrics, making Rodgers, really, the only female Broadway composer of her generation. PHEW! That's a lot of setup for Bobby's review, so let's jump off there and talk about the cast... and speaking of Princess Winnifred...

Emily Skeggs

One of the highlights of the show was this fascinating performer last seen on the street in FUN HOME, for which she was given a Theatre World Award and received a Tony nom, to boot. Belting out SHY, initially introduced by the goddess Carol Burnett, Skeggs' energy was as infectious as her thousand-watt smile, clear trumpet of a voice, and fab diction, all of which left the audience wanting more from her. FORTUNATELY, the show that put this performer on the map was of special interest for the evening, having been penned by Broadway's first-ever female Tony-Winning writing team, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron. Skeggs' rendition of her signature song, CHANGING MY MAJOR from FUN HOME, was a truly special moment, and an equally special salute to the two women who gave her Allison. Yes, she carries this song in her front pocket at all times, but with MISS focussing on female creatives, it was an opportunity for Emily to sing it FOR Tesori & Kron, giving the song a real surge of feminist power... And speaking of power...

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

Bryonha Marie Parham

This powerhouse belter was a standout, not only for her voice but for her connection to everything and everyone around her. Keenly aware of her stage partners, her music, and her audience, Parham is one of those actors with whom everyone feels taken care of. She will get you where you're going, lift you up, give you a challenge, comfort your pain, and deposit you at your destination, safe and sound, all within the 2 ½ minutes of a song by the likes of Miki Grant. Her rendition of IF I COULD'VE BEEN from WORKING, had a tremendous hurdle to clear if, like Bobby, you are a fan of this song and its originator, the late, great Lynn Thigpen. Truthfully, if we could ring up Lynn right now, we would tell her that her song is in the best of hands with Parham, and we would encourage the lady to keep this one with her from now on. And more on the subject of power...

Nicholas Rodriguez

Possessed of a powerful voice and handsome face, this, heretofore, Broadway ensemble/understudy performer truly shined in his duet with Kennedy Kanagawa, LILY's EYES from Simon & Norman's THE SECRET GARDEN. Rodriguez's voice is one of those thick, rangy baritone voices with a hefty, covered sound that comes up from the earth, vibrates out of him, then bounces and echos off all 4 walls, the ceiling, and the floor, demonstrating his years of training, centered on the more "legitimate" classical focussed repertoire. To be honest, dear readers, 92nd Street Y's Kaufman Auditorium presents some acoustical challenges, but this singer's singing sang past them. With a bio that called out credits of his performing with orchestras from Bejing to Arkansas, one could hear why he is also a much sought-after teacher and serves as the Artistic Director for the Broadway Dreams Foundation. And Speaking of Kennedy...

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

Kennedy Kanagawa

INTO THE WOODS' Milky White the cow puppeteer got a chance to really show off his pipes and a few moves, on the night, since, along with the previously mentioned duet with Nicholas R (which was GORGEOUS), he also took on the character of Rumplestiltskin when the company sang Kirsten Childs' STRAW INTO GOLD from FUNKED UP FAIRY TALES. His soloing and acting on this number was wonderful singing coupled with work that was alternately scary and funny, with just the right amount of creepy in his fairytale creeper. His standalone solo, CHICKEN SOUP WITH RICE from REALLY ROSIE by Carole King & Maurice Sendak, was a traditional park&bark belter that showed his tenor to fine advantage - though, between SECRET GARDEN, FUNKED UP..., REALLY ROSIE, and (let's be honest) puppeteering for INTO THE WOODS, this phase of his career does seem a bit caught up in children's storyland. And speaking of the story...

Kate Baldwin & Georgia Stitt

The entire evening was conceived and created, top to bottom, by these two gifted women. Baldwin has been twice nominated for Antoinette Perry's medallion, in her 6 trips to The Broadway since 2000, along with 4 Drama Desk noms - 2 for her musical theatre work Off-The-Broadway - so she is a master of the art form. Stitt is a perfect subject herself, for an evening focussed on women composers, having penned musicals, record albums (of her original music), oratorios, choral, and orchestral works. She is also a fine singer in her own right, as demonstrated when she and Kate made a duet on Ford & Cryer's STRONG WOMAN NUMBER. Taking on the roles of MCs/lecturers/teachers, these two provided all of the connective tissue throughout the evening, moving the audience from number to number and from video clip to slide presentation and back again, on the big screen. Everything was expertly curated by these partners in chime, and their dedication to the evening and the art of musical theatre was more than apparent in the amount of homework they clearly and lovingly undertook for this presentation, and speaking of presentation ...

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

Overall, while the performances by the cast were really wonderful, and a lot of the information interesting, with Baldwin & Stitt keeping things moving right along, the whole presentation felt like just that - a presentation. Reading a great deal of their facts and historical content from their respective binders, our hosts were at their most engaging when they went off-book and just talked to each other. The overall effect of the evening, though, favored education over "putting on a show," which, to be fair, is more in line with 92NY's mission, but at nearly an hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission, it began to feel like a bit of a long haul (at the hour: fifteen mark, if Bobby's honest). The cast of singing actors harmonized and played musical scenes together beautifully through the night, so it was not without payoff. However, if Bobby can let some raindrops fall with his rainbow review - the overall theme, while a winning concept by talented, likable, and knowledgeable hosts, was weakened a bit by the material selected, which didn't showcase these female writers to their fullest advantage. Writers like Carol Hall & Lynn Ahrens, who were relegated to their works for Children's records and TV shows, are also sophisticated Broadway composers. It may have been the goal of Baldwin & Stitt to present some of their "other" compositions but the SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK doesn't compare to the WHOREHOUSE and RAGTIME. Baldwin could very well have sung the stuffing out of BACK TO BEFORE if she had programmed that famous song into the night, and Miss Mona from Miss Baldwin would not have gone amiss if she had been selected as a Miss for MISS. To add some critic to this critique, if the point of the evening were to demonstrate that female composers deserve the accolades for their work on The Broadway that, until recently, was reserved for their male counterparts, a lot of the selected works didn't make a strong case. Songs like Hall's IT'S ALL RIGHT TO CRY and Ahren's INTERPLANET JANET, as well as the inclusion of half a dozen numbers that were collaborations between men and women writers, seemed to really dampen the oomph they were going for.

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y

With an excellent Projection Design by Kylee Loera, and Lighting Design by John Kelly - the look, feel, and flow of the show were all cohesive and pleasant, as were Baldwin & Stitt's script and score. It is our sincere hope that this is not the last MISS we will see. The ladies have something here and this 92nd Street Y evening could very well serve as a workshop for something really magical. Pared down to even just Georgia & Kate with a revised script and a score that jettisons male/female collaborators and the kids' music, these two could play this salute in any club or on any stage, just them & us. So, with the hope that this is not the last we will see of MISS: BROADWAY's WOMEN SONGWRITERS, we give this fine endeavor ...

3 Out Of 5 Rainbows

You All MUST check out the programs in the wonderful Lyrics & Lyicists' 2022/23 season on the 92NY website: HERE

(As well as EVERYTHING else 92NY has to offer NYC)

Photo credit: Richard Termine

Review: Broadway World Didn't Miss MISS As Lyrics & Lyricists Presented MISS: BROADWAY'S WOMEN SONGWRITERS At The 92nd Street Y


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