Review: Marissa Mulder's SWINGIN' ON A STAR Swings & Soars at The Cutting Room

Marissa Mulder is magnificent in her smart and sweet Jimmy Van Heusen show

By: Jun. 08, 2024
Review: Marissa Mulder's SWINGIN' ON A STAR Swings & Soars at The Cutting Room
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I was happy to learn that singer Marissa Mulder was again putting the spotlight on composer Jimmy Van Heusen for her chosen repertoire for a show that opened with “Come Fly with Me.”  Time flies, too:  She’s a singer I’ve been happily following since she first dipped her toes into the NYC cabaret waters.  Let’s flash back about a decade and a half.  I was one of the judges in the singing contest she entered in two consecutive years at the now-closed Metropolitan Room.  I saw her impressive cabaret show that first year.  She returned to the competition the next summer — and won.  As the chosen “MetroStar,” her prize was an engagement at the club. And it was terrific. Over these years, she’s released satisfying CDs, won awards, and has turned her attention and talents to presenting not just Golden Age standards, but also songs of The Beatles and Tom Waits, among others. She’s a natural performer, and her singing voice on more conversational and relaxed numbers sounds like an extension of her speaking voice, while sustained belted notes (like the “All” in “All the Way”) can be exciting and powerful.   

The fact that her musical director/pianist would be Jon Weber, the cream of the cabaret crop in his field, with jazz expertise that never is distancing to those who aren’t full-time jazz lovers, was great news.  I knew they had chemistry.  And this show also had more musicians to bring out the best elements of Van Heusen gems: bassist Philip Ambuel, drummer Ahmad Johnson, and a guitarist who really knocked me out, especially on the romantic “Imagination”: Lance Conrad.  (And who would imagine that “Imagination”’s lovely, mature melody was composed by Van Heusen when he was 11 years old, finding a place years later with a new lyric more than a quarter of a century later.  

The singer told the crowd at The Cutting Room how cutting classes was a regular thing for the songwriter who was kicked out of a few schools and was more interested in spending days working as a radio disc jockey.  She speaks affectionately of the composer and his works and quirks, choosing interesting facts and anecdotes that are anything but dry.  He and she are both from Syracuse, NY, and that common history sparked a feeling of connection, despite being generations apart.  (He was born in 1913 and died in 1990.)   

This radiant revisit to Jimmy Van Heusen was generous in length and generous of spirit.  A gracious and talented performer, redhead Marissa Mulder in a red dress showed a sense of fun, too.  When introducing “Love and Marriage,” she mentioned that some in the audience will remember it from its repurposed use as the theme for the sitcom “Married with Children,” but says her mother wouldn’t let her watch the rowdy TV show and its ilk, adding, “She had me watching “Barney” [the cutesy kiddie show with the purple dinosaur]  until I was about 15…..  That’s why I’m in therapy today.” It got a great laugh.  “Love and Marriage” was just one of the numbers she included from the TV musical version of the classic play Our Town, and her warm versions of its title song and “Look to Your Heart” were major highlights.  She inhabits the ballads with emotions and perspectives that feel authentic and gleefully jumps into the bubbly stuff, like “Personality” (something she has plenty of).  Jon Weber’s musical settings were primo. Curiously, the number chosen as the act’s title tune,“Swingin’ on a Star,” was truncated while others were given the full treatment, and it was wonderful that they often included the worthy introductory verses that many singers discard. 

Marissa Mulder duly credited the lyricists and shared some facts about how and when the partnerships came about.  Johnny Burke and Sammy Cahn are the main ones, but also included were pairings with Eddie DeLange (“Darn That Dream”) and Johnny Mercer (“I Thought About You”).  She made a point that, although the composer had lots of hits (and four Oscars) when writing for the movies, his Broadway projects were not huge hits.  Although she talked about and sampled their scores, one by one, it seemed odd to leave out the last one, Walking Happy. Maybe she ran out of time.  Maybe next time.  And I certainly wanted a next time …because on this Sunday afternoon, when she sang the lyric “Won’t you tell me when/ We will meet again?/ ‘Sunday, Monday Or Always’?” I’d be ready for a musical meeting any Sunday, Monday, or other day with this “always welcome” singer.  

Find more upcoming shows at the Cutting Room on their website at

Learn more about Marissa Mulder at


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