Review: Meg Flather Goes Home Again in PORTRAITS at Don't Tell Mama

Meg Flather Begins Her Brick Room Tour with PORTRAITS

By: Mar. 01, 2024
Review: Meg Flather Goes Home Again in PORTRAITS at Don't Tell Mama
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As Thomas Wolfe tells us, you can’t go home again. Thankfully, cabaret singer/songwriter Meg Flather has ignored Mr Wolfe’s sage advice.  Over the next few months, she is presenting a series of her most successful cabaret evenings in the Brick Room at Don’t Tell Mama which she has logically entitled “The Brick Room Tour.” Every artist knows that one must assess where one has been to decide where to go next. Ms. Flather is doing her assessment in front of a highly entertained audience. Last Sunday she presented the first of her Brick Room shows, which also happens to be the oldest of the shows.

PORTRAITS was originally conceived way back in 1993 when the prestigious club The Ballroom asked if she would play there for a week. She took all the best material she had been working on and created a show. The musical material is all basically identical to that 1993 show with some updated banter to put it all in context. What emerges is a delightful time capsule look back to the golden age of New York City cabaret. Flather says that what is curious about the show is that it eerily foreshadowed many of the events that would occur in her career and personal life. Performing the show in the historic environs of Don’t Tell Mama’s Brick Room where so many cabaret artists got their start only adds to the feeling of being a musical time traveler.

The show itself is a sequence of musical vignettes fashioned around character portraits. Some of the characters are drawn from Meg Flather’s friends and acquaintances while others come from her observations of people she has met and seen around the city. To assist her in creating this gallery of interesting characters she has enlisted the help of her longtime musical director Tracy Stark. Ms. Stark doubles as arranger, accompanist, backup singer, and scene partner. The evening is held on track by the wonderful director Lennie Watts who has been working with Flather consistently since 2015.

Meg Flather opened with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I Feel Lucky.” She followed with a touching performance of Alger and Levine’s “Once in a Very Blue Moon.” She confessed some memories of her experimental period between her two marriages in “Soliloquy At 5 AM In the Holiday Inn on I-70.” The song is a more graphic version of Sondheim’s “Barcelona.” She gave us Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner” and then a scene-in-song called “Maud” which presents a gossip session worthy of “The Women.”

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Meg Flather. Photo by Lucille Hannah Jane.

A highlight of the evening was Maltby & Shire’s travelogue “Life Story” which walks us through the life of a divorced woman balancing the duties of a single mother with her successful career and not-so-successful love life. She extols the mind-expanding virtues of travel in Janis Ian’s “Amsterdam.” She amused us with a story about faking her way through French culture working the Yves St Laurent concession at Bloomingdales. “The French Song” from A, My Name is Alice is a series of French language non-sequiturs that are hysterical. The punchline “J’accuse, Jacqueline Bouvier!” got the best laugh of the evening.

No cabaret evening from the 90s was complete without a song by Joni Mitchell. Flather sticks with the French theme in ”In France They Kiss on Main Street.” Meg Flather demonstrated the foreshadowing nature of her early show by dedicating the heartbreaking “Where Have You Been?” to her mother’s end-of-life decline.

Like Joni Mitchell, no 90s cabaret was complete without a contribution from Jacques Brel. Meg Flather sang what is perhaps Brel’s most popular tune, “Days of the Waltz.” Despite my personal distaste for Brel, Flather’s ending, fading off into an ethereal eternity, was an inspired choice. Her encore was a great David Wilcox song, “Leave It Like It Is.” The song reminds us that the joy of life is found in the imperfections, not the perfection.

It is the exact reason for visiting your early artistic work. The imperfections are the point. Styles and content have changed a great deal in cabaret since 1993. And yet Flather’s look backward was as welcome as reading an old love letter. Only the good memories survive. It was a lovely reminder of a time when the world was less mean and dark. We could all use a lot more of that.

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Meg Flather. Photo by Lucille Carr-Kaffashan

The Brick Room Tour continues at Don’t Tell Mama in March and April with more shows from Meg Flather. For reservations visit For more about Meg Flather go to or follow her @megflather on Instagram.

Header photo credit: Hannah Jane


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