BWW Review: MEOW MEOW Brings the Party to Kennedy Center
Renée Fleming's VOICES series has introduced (or reintroduced) Kennedy Center audiences to some great voices from all genres, including musical theater, pop, jazz, and opera. While the latest artist in this series, Meow Meow, has done some musical theater in London and performs with some of the world's leading orchestras, she's doesn't exactly fit into any specific genre. Really, you might take it a step further and say you can't compare her to anyone else in the world of singing.
Her uniqueness was abundantly clear from her entrance into Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater last night. She first appeared in one of the house left boxes carrying several bags and a suitcase and wearing many layers of clothing. She promptly requested (and, in one case, demanded) that several audience members help her carry her bags to the stage and remove extra clothing. The idea, which went on far too long for my taste, was that she was late for the show - because it's so hard to get into our country nowadays - and had to improvise. Without professional backup dancers and professionally created snazzy special effects at her disposal - a big splashy Broadway show was in the works, but the economic downturn put an end to that - she also had to take it upon herself to give the audience a show not to forget, even if the venue wasn't up to her usual standards. She would do so, in part, by involving audience members at every conceivable moment - another element that got a bit old as one hour and forty minutes passed by.
Don't get me wrong though - her talent is tremendous and she throws away nearly every preconceived notion about what a cabaret singer is and does. Equally comfortable with comedic patter and singing everything from love songs we all know (Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas"), folk pop songs ("Be Careful" by Patti Griffin) and pop rock songs ("Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees") to a multi-language and multistylistic version of "Itsy, Bitsy, Teenie Weenie Polka Dot Bikini" (seriously, part of her rendition was in Mandarin and it ended with an avant garde interpretation), selections from the times of the Weimar Republic, and Italian language politically driven music ("Rinasceró"), she's the very definition of a versatile performer. Accompanied by a trio of accomplished musicians (Lance Horne on piano, Yair Evnine on cello and electric guitar, and Chris Jago on percussion), she navigated her way through a set list that would exhaust nearly anyone with an abundance of power, charisma, and vocal control.
Whether her schtick is for you, is simply a matter of taste. Even if you are of the mind that sometimes a little of something goes a long way, there's no denying that she gives her all onstage. Her act is something you don't see very often at Kennedy Center, which is something in and of itself.
Running Time: One hour and forty minutes with no intermission
Meow Meow performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC - on Saturday, September 15, 2018. For tickets and information on the Renée Fleming VOICES series, click here.
Photo: Courtesy of the Kennedy Center website