BWW Review: Robyn Spangler Brings RIDDLE, RONSTADT & ROBYN SPANGLER to Rockwell
Who says artistry seldom improves with age? I saw Robyn Spangler perform her first Linda Ronstadt show, after an extensive tour to promote her CD Why I Love Linda Ronstadt about five years ago. I had the following to say about her performance: "Accessible, friendly with an aura of poise and self-confidence, Spangler ... fully engages and entertains her audience. I had such a good time, when the hour was over, I wanted to cry out for more...more Nelson Riddle, more Gilbert and Sullivan! Leaving an audience wanting more is a sign of a truly great cabaret artist, and Robyn Spangler fills the bill".
On Monday January 16, Spangler brought her new show Riddle, Ronstadt & Robyn Spangler to Rockwell Table and Stage in its exclusive Los Angeles presentation for 2017. Let's say that, like fine wine, Spangler has indeed gotten better with time. She is a consummate singer with such warmth, humor and vitality that you hang on to every note and savor every lyric she sings. Her phrasing, her range and her emotional attachment to each and every song make the experience extra special. Her banter between songs is short and sweet, engaging, funny and enjoyable. She talked about how Nelson Riddle and Linda Ronstadt produced the first of three albums What's New in 1983. They had never even met each other as Riddle was not a fan of rock and roll. His daughter assured him, "Don't worry, her checks won't bounce". Subtle humor pervades all of Spangler's stories, and she has great rapport with musical director Todd Schroeder. To say they make beautiful music together... onstage, that is... is an understatement.
It is important to note that Spangler does not do an impression of Linda Ronstadt; she sings her music...and pays tribute to her tremendous versatility as an artist. This is a very entertaining show with a charm all its own. You'll come away with a delicious taste in your mouth for Ronstadt's music and for Spangler, who imposes her own fresh interpretation on it. She states emphatically that Riddle and Ronstadt created new arrangements for the classic tunes in the 80s, and now 30 years later, it is her job to take the art and recreate it, bringing it to new generations.
Highlights of this thoroughly entertaining one hour set include songs from all three of the Riddle, Ronstadt collaborations. The second album Lush Life was produced in 1984 and the third Sentimental Reasons in 1986. Some of these delectable songs are: "Lover Man", "I've Got a Crush on You" by the Gershwins, and their gorgeous "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Skylark", "Falling in Love Again", and "What'll I Do?" My mother taught me all of these tunes, and I had the Riddle & Ronstadt albums. Spangler, as backed by Schroeder's combo, really took me back.. Familiarity, yes, but somehow, it was like hearing them for the very first time. Spangler has a passion for the music which suits her lovely voice to perfection.
Joining Spangler as her special guest star was Don Most, one of the stars of TV's original Happy Days, who had started the early days of his career as a singer. He totally amazed me, putting the audience into an unforgettable musical fervor. While Spangler changed costumes, he sang "Almost Like Being in Love", and "I've Got You Under My Skin" and returned to join Spangler on "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", a stunningly passionate duet that literally set the joint on fire. Spangler concluded the all too short set with "Desperado", one of Ronstadt's signature songs. Riddle, as I already mentioned, hated rock and roll, but he loved Ronstadt so much that he arranged the tune especially for her voice,
Spangler looked incredible in both black and red gowns. She is a fourth generation musician who knows how to put on a show. Needless to say, I did not want the evening to end.
I chatted with many younger people in the room after the show. What pleased me more than anything was their excitement. They had made a discovery... actually two: the music of Riddle and Ronstadt... and the vivacious songbird Robyn Spangler. She should feel rightfully proud of her achievement. Brava!