Standards and More
Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, Boca Raton, FL, February 8, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey Bruce for Cabaret Scenes
When you close your eyes and think of Vivian Reed, if you’re like me, you will immediately conjure up her star-making performance in the Broadway musical Bubbling Brown Sugar. Quite young, with a voice that could, literally, raise the roof, she was Tony-nominated, and well deserved.
Jump 40 years or so, and there she was, in the beautiful Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall at Lynn University, looking spectacular and taking the enraptured audience back and forth in time over a swift-moving 90 minutes.
Accompanied by her longtime musical director on piano, William Forstyth McDaniel, Reed’s voice, if anything, has gotten even more thrilling. Starting out as a dramatic soprano in Pittsburgh, she is capable of singing stratospherically as well as in true contralto depths.
Her journey was interesting. As a young girl, singing in her Baptist church choir, she was approached by Ernestine McClendon and tap master Honi Coles who became her agents while she was still in her young teens. An opera student, she confessed to knowing very little about the Great American Songbook and was perplexed when asked to sing more current pieces.
Luck would be on her side when she moved to New York and Broadway beckoned.
She took us on this journey through her music. She opened her concert with a medley of “Just One of Those Things,” “Almost Like Being in Love, ” “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die” and “I Love Being Here with You.” Unlike many other performers, who shall remain nameless, Reed sang each song in its entirety….in a medley! Luckily for our audience, there were no abridged tunes and it was a pleasure to hear them, especially since she has become a master interpreter of the lyric. Her understanding of words as well as her superb diction were just a few of the traits that complemented her performance.
There were interesting vocal segments—her homages to Edith Piaf and Lena Horne standing out. She even sang Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” and, miraculously, kept me awake (a lovely take on the number, she made me want to sit up and listen, as opposed to, well, you know).
To these ears, the evening’s standouts were a thrilling “Blues in the Night” and, from The Wiz, “If You Believe.” An added bit of grace to the event was the presence of a Pittsburgh couple, celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary, for whom Reed sang. At their wedding! Live! 57 years ago.
Vivian Reed is ageless, gorgeous and, lucky for us, in greater voice than ever. She has “returned” to the fold of cabaret and I would highly recommend catching her when she is in your town. Truly, a night to remember.