BWW Review: SHE ROCKS! THE WOMEN OF ROCK Keeps Me Hanging On at Omaha Community Playhouse
Last October I joined a multitude of other Tara Vaughan fans at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Good news. She's back! SHE ROCKS! THE WOMEN OF ROCK is better than ever filled with Vaughan's favorite songs by women. With nothing more than a scattering of tapestry rugs on the stage floor and strings of warm lights suspended from the ceiling, Vaughan herself provides all the atmosphere needed to make it the place to be.
The Howard Drew Theatre was packed Thursday night and sold out Friday. I believe it will continue to sell out, not only because of the welcoming environment and Vaughan's ability to make her audience feel appreciated, but because this woman is a phenomenally versatile talent. Her throaty, rich sound can knock out everything from peppy Petula Clark to hard rocking Heart.
Between songs, Vaughan regales us with stories. Stories of women who struggled and succeeded in the male-dominated music business. Stories of her mother. All powerful women who sang their own songs, whether it was through starting as backup singer to Michael Jackson or performing for a lineup of dolls on a front porch.
"For funsies," Vaughan interacts with the audience, inviting them to participate in jokes and sing along. But don't sing too loudly because you won't want to miss Vaughan as she sings Carly Simon. Or Blondie. Or Sheryl Crow. And Fifth Dimension's Wedding Bell Blues? I loved that song back in 1969, so that walk down memory lane was something to remind me that some of the greatest hits were by women. For the younger crowd, there's Amy Winehouse, but these oldies from past decades are still well known by music lovers of all ages.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Vaughan's own songs in those favorites written by strong women. Blame it on My Youth and her newest song Father's Daughter are as good as any of those on the hit charts. Her songwriting skills are remarkable.
Vaughan's marvelous five piece band consists of the devilishly fun lead guitarist with nimble fingers Max Meyer, Adam Stoltenberg, Ryan and Matthew McGuigan (brothers of Billy McGuigan), and a new back up singer/guitarist Natalie Thomas who blew us away with her vocals in Chain of Fools and Diana Ross' You Keep Me Hanging On. Ryan did a fine version of California Dreaming, and Matthew partnered with Vaughan on You've Got a Friend, a tribute their ten year friendship. Stoltenberg's drums added palpable electricity to Father's Daughter. These musicians are some of the most energetic and enthusiastic I've seen. They are talented, but they are also just plain fun.
Wrapping up the two act show with a medley, Vaughan and her band were called back for an encore. What better way to end but with Etta James' soulful At Last followed by a rocking group number that brought everyone back out of their seats. I'd say a two ovation night was a landslide success.
In my opinion, SHE ROCKS! has the potential to become even bigger. I would love to see this show go on the road.
You can catch SHE ROCKS! Sundays at 2:00 or Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 until June 30.
Photo Courtesy of Tara Vaughan.