BWW Reviews: Merideth Kaye Clark Captivates in Performance of Joni Mitchell's Iconic Album BLUE at Portland Center Stage

BWW Reviews: Merideth Kaye Clark Captivates in Performance of Joni Mitchell's Iconic Album BLUE at Portland Center Stage

Portland audiences, we are seriously lucky. We get to enjoy not only a first-class theatre scene, but also a host of special performances, like Merideth Kaye Clark singing the entirety of Joni Mitchell's Blue album in the Ellen Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage. Clark gave her first performance to a sold-out crowd on May 29 (which I saw), and will be doing an encore on June 19. The concert is one of Portland Center Stage's Community Programs.

Clark is a woman of many talents and plenty of musical theatre street cred, having played Elphaba more than 150 times in the First National Tour of WICKED. Recently, she starred as Clara in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at Portland Playhouse and Cathy in THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Portland Center Stage, and just two weeks ago, she took part in the PORTLAND SINGS! RICHARD RODGERS concert held the Recital Hall at Classic Pianos.

She is also an accomplished songwriter and musician, playing a variety of instruments, including the guitar and the viola. A few months ago, to prepare for this performance of Blue, she learned to play the lap dulcimer.

Blue, which was released in 1971, is a beautiful and heartbreaking collection of songs about the intermingling of joy and pain love brings to our lives. Rolling Stone ranks Blue #30 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Atlantic's Jack Hamilton called it "the most vivid autopsy of romantic relationships ever put to record." If you haven't heard the complete album, then stop reading this immediately and go buy it on iTunes.

In the concert, Clark simply performed the album from beginning to end, the songs occasionally interspersed with stories about the music and her personal connection to it. I don't mean this to sound trite -- Clark is a masterful performer and she has an amazing voice, and what she did was give us the gift of hearing the music as it was intended to be heard. She just sang the songs as they were written and allowed us to connect with them -- for some, that connection probably went back more than 40 years.

So, the music is wonderful and Clark is wonderful, and these two things I knew before going to the concert. One of the things I love about theatre, and which was definitely apparent here was the power of a performance like this to bring different groups of people together. I heard conversations between people who were Joni Mitchell fans but had never heard of Merideth Kaye Clark. I also heard conversations between people who had never listened to Blue, so were presumably either Merideth Kaye Clark fans or frequent flyers at Portland Center Stage. Whatever it was that brought each of us there, for about an hour, we all shared something beautiful -- we laughed, we cried, and, yes, we sang.

Merideth Kaye Clark will present an encore performance of Blue on June 19 at 8 pm. For tickets, visit www.pcs.org. If it's sold out, I say we petition for a third go-around.

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