Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y

Stephanie J Block Triumphs with Vulnerability

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y
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Stephanie J Block has made her name on Broadway playing a long line of badass women. She was the first woman to put her mark on Wicked’s Elphaba. She played legendary superstar Liza Minnelli in The Boy from Oz. She fought off the marauding English army as Grace O’Malley in The Pirate Queen. She was a woman who took control of her destiny as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5. She dominated the stage as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Alice Nutting/Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Trina in Falsettos. She was on a mission as The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. And of course, she won a Tony award for playing the queen of all badasses, Cher, in The Cher Show. Her clarion belting and undeniable presence have made her the go-to actress for fully actualized female roles.

But except for the Baker’s Wife, motherhood has not played a big part in her Broadway journey. True, Cher, Trina, and Grace O’Malley were all mothers, but motherhood was not their primary concern. But the role Ms. Block seems to most relish is her real-life role as mother to her 9-year-old daughter. That was the focus of her show THE MOTHER, which she presented last week at the 92nd Street Y. She focused not only on her role as a mother but on all the mothers in her life: real mothers, mothers-in-law, surrogate mothers and mentors, and that mother of us all, New York City. Unlike the characters she often plays on stage, this view of Stephanie J Block was sentimental, vulnerable, cozy, and very very warm. It was an evening filled with gratitude for the blessings of life that was brimming over with humor, mostly self-deprecating. The amazing thing is the picture of the artist is just as badass as any of her onstage alter egos.

Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y
Stephanie J Block and Dillon Kondor. Photo by Joseph Sinnott.

She opened with Kander & Ebb’s “Colored Lights” from The Rink. A show all about mothers and daughters. The song has always been a slow burn toward a spectacular ending. Ms. Block did not disappoint. She dedicated the song to her most potent mentor, the late Chita Rivera. She followed with a tribute to New York City, that most stern of tough love mothers with Andrew Lippa’s “What Is It About Her? She saluted her mother-in-law, a woman who never takes no for an answer and embraces life with a vengeance with the anthem of never-say-no people, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” For her own late mother, she used “Maybe This Time” to illustrate her tenacity and vulnerable spirit.

She paid tribute to her daughter with a beautiful lullaby version of “Over the Rainbow.” She then turned to some of the mothers in her own gallery of characters singing “Woman”  from The Pirate Queen and “I’m Breaking Down” from Falsettos. The latter number brought the house down. She paid tribute to another of her invaluable mentors, Dolly Parton, who not only agreed to sing on her album but re-wrote her own biggest hit “I Will Always Love You” as a duet. A pre-recorded, disembodied Dolly sang along on the song.

Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y
Stephanie J Block and Dillon Kondor. Photo by Joseph Sinnott. 

The last section of her fine concert was dedicated to lessons learned from the many mothers in her world. She borrowed Brandi Carlisle’s “The Mother” with a slightly revised lyric. She gave us a very warm arrangement of Sondheim’s “Being Alive.” She wrapped up with a beautiful rendition of James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life. As an encore, she used Scot Alan’s very moving “Never Neverland."

Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y
Stephanie J Block. Photo by Joseph Sinnott. 

Stephanie J Block was beautifully supported by great musicians. Her musical director/arranger Ben Cohn created wonderful arrangements and was a sensitive accompanist. Dillon Kondor on guitar and Allison Seidner on cello did astounding work. Ms. Block herself was in fabulous voice, dealing with a difficult program of power songs without a sign of fatigue. Her artistry was apparent in every moment. The 92nd Street Y has a very intelligent but often conservative audience. However, Ms. Block’s reception was especially ecstatic. Every number was greeted with lusty applause. And rightly so. Stephanie J Block is the real thing. I’m very glad I was there to witness it.

Review: Stephanie J Block Shows her Softer Side In THE MOTHER at 92nd Street Y
Beh Cohn, Stephanie J Block, Dillon Kondor, Allison Seidner. Photo by Joseph Sinnott. 

For more information on Stephanie J Block or to hear her podcast, go to stephaniejblock.com or follow her at @stephaniejblock on Instagram.

For tickets and information on more great programs at the 92nd Street Y, visit 92ny.org.



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