BWW Review: Kristin Towers-Rowles Shares her Inspirational Life Story Through Song in A LOVELY LINEAGE
Truly inspirational stories allow you to believe anything is possible if you trust in your own judgment, dreams, and will to succeed. Award-winning stage star Kristin Towers-Rowles shares her remarkable life story doing just that in her critically acclaimed cabaret show, A Lovely Lineage, directed by Cate Caplin with musical direction by Katie Clarke. Her latest performance on Sunday, October 18 in the Monroe Forum at the El Portal allowed her to share her remarkable tale of survival as she pursued her dreams no matter what roadblocks were thrown in her way.
A Lovely Lineage captures the historic Broadway and Hollywood lineage of Kristin Towers-Rowles, starting with her grandmother, the legendary Kathryn Grayson. Ms. Grayson was an MGM darling and a Hollywood pioneer having starred in some of the most beloved movie musicals of the 1950s including Kiss Me, Kate and Show Boat. The lineage does not stop there - Kristin's grandfather was the dashing and talented Broadway leading man Johnnie Johnston; her mother, Patricia Towers, was a Las Vegas headliner; and her father is the prolific character actor Robert Towers. What a joy it was to listen as Kristin celebrated her incredible family legacy by performing musical numbers from such beloved Broadway musicals as Follies, Wicked, She Loves Me, and Kiss Me, Kate, to name only a few, with opera and musical theatre singer Jahmal Bakare joining Kristin on stage for several numbers.
Those who have seen Kristin perform onstage most likely do not know the struggles she has overcome to achieve her goal of musical theater stardom. After graduating from Hollywood High, Kristin went on to study in New York, then returned to Los Angeles to "maintain a closet" as she set out on several national musical theater tours. It was during one of those tours that a too-tight costume caused her to a suffer a career-ending back injury at age 27, with doctors telling her she might never walk again - let alone ever be able to perform onstage. Her heartfelt tale of loss as she struggled to accept her fate brought many in the audience to tears.
But there soon appeared a light at the end of the tunnel when Kristin met her wonderful husband Ryan Rowles and together they brought three talented daughters into the world. With her father Robert Towers, as well as her husband and daughters in the audience, the evening was even more special as she shared how much their love and support has meant to her, as well as her dedication to performing the show to inspire her girls to pursue their own musical theater dreams. I can tell you after speaking with them, fireball middle daughter Makayla is certainly on her way to shine in the spotlight!
When her youngest daughter was a year and a half old, Kristin decided it was time to get back onstage to maintain her sanity, no matter what her doctors had told her. And thankfully, her drive to prove herself has allowed audiences to enjoy her wonderful character portrayals, especially her ability to sell any song with her multi-octave magnificent singing voice, as well as her insightful directing, all of which she continues to pursue.
Kristin began the evening with the comedic parody to "Broadway Baby" from Follies entitled "Hollywood Baby" in which she shared the many stages of her life inspired by her upcoming in the film capital of the world. "But that was never my dream," shared Kristin, who chose to follow in her family's footsteps and focused her talents in musical theatre.
The evening continued with musical numbers "Make Believe" and "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine" from Showboat, from which she comically launched into "I Hate Men" and "So in Love" from Kiss Me Kate. These two musicals are special to her since both Kristin and her grandmother played the leads onstage to much acclaim. I definitely heard her husband laughing when Kristin so lovingly sang specific lyrics in his direction!
Kristin then took a seat in a much-earned spotlight as crooned the romantic "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from Lovely to Look At, a hit song featured in another of her grandmother's starring roles. Continuing the chronological story of her lovely lineage, Kristin told how her grandfather, after being let go from his MGM contract and marrying her grandmother, went on to star in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on Broadway.
Other selections performed to perfection by Kristin included "Vanilla Ice Cream" from She Loves Me, honoring her mother who was one of the first to play the musical's lead Amalia, which happens to be Kristin's youngest daughter's name. "My New Philosophy" which I have seen her perform as Sally in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown was performed with her wonderful pianist (and musical director) Katie Clarke throwing in the necessary comebacks. This particular song also has family history associated with it since her parents met when her father was performing as Snoopy in the original Los Angeles production.
Kristin then introduced Nigerian American tenor Jahmaul Bakare who has co-starred with Kristin in several musicals. His rendition of "Unchained Melody" was breathtaking as is his physical presence on stage. He also performed the ballad "Let it Sing" from Violet and magnificently re-created the intense chemistry with Kristin from the Los Angeles premiere of the musical. And their duet "Bring me to Light" from Violet was a fitting finale to an incredible night of entertainment.
Honoring her grandmother who went on to take over for Julie Andrews in Camelot on Broadway, Kristin sang an emotional "Before I Gaze at You Again" which again induced many tears in the audience. In 2014, Kristin performed in And the World Goes 'Round, a compilation of musical theater songs by Kander and Ebb. The cast recorded an album from the production with Kristin being the only singer to have not won a Tony Award. Her rendition of "A Quiet Thing" which was originally from Flora the Red Menace, turned out to be Kander's favorite on the And the World Goes 'Round, album. Kristin's rendition certainly makes you wonder why this incredibly talented performer has NOT yet won a Tony Award. Mark my words - it will happen.
"Our Story Goes On" from Baby was a fitting final tribute honoring the generations of women in her family from whom Kristin has learned so many life lessons, and her daughters who she will certainly inspire to pursue their own dreams as evidenced by their overwhelming love on display in the theater. Hopefully Kristin will continue to share her inspirational cabaret show A Lovely Lineage as her career continues to unfold, her talents honoring her lovely lineage while acting as an inspiration for everyone struggling to attain their dreams.
Kristin Towers-Rowles. Photo by Adam Southard Photography.
Kristin Towers-Rowles with her family members who attended A LOVELY LINEAGE.Photo by Katie Clarke