music

review: grace cosgrove

Grace Cosgrove: Spend an Evening with Grace
with Don Rebic, Jason DiMatteo, Danny Mallon
directed by Marilyn Maye

The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street
April 29, April 30, May 2, May 4, June 8 2012
event web site
Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
May 2, 2012 

At the Metropolitan Room this Spring during five month-spanning performances (three performances have occurred and two are yet to happen) New  York audiences have a chance to listen to a mature performer finding her way into her own style. Research shows me that Grace Cosgrove has had several careers (background singing and her own long running “Grace Notes” live variety show and television editor among them) and is now exploring various forms of a cabaret solo act.  In her show “Spend an Evening with Grace”, for which she credits the delectable Marilyn Maye as director and her accompanist Don Rebic as musical director, Cosgrove indeed gives us an evening with much grace and exploration, and some highs and lows.  Or better said: this solid performer demonstrates to this first time listener a charming style, a truly resonant understanding and electric delivery of a portion of her set list, and a distanced, surface, almost relentless similarity in feel and tone with other portions of that same list. This program shows a performer exploring corners of the American Songbook with sometimes insufficient patter to take us with her on her leaps from location to location, and occasionally landing squarely in the middle of a set of songs that will simply thrill you.

The first several numbers of this show– from “Devil May Care” (Dorough and Kirk) to a medley of “All of You / Let’s Fall in Love / But Beautiful / Some Enchanted Evening” to “Too Darn Hot” (Cole Porter) to the Schwartz and Dietz charmer “Confession” — all feel as though they are delivered with the same grinning, bouncy style, sometimes ranging into a bossa nova approach.  “Some Enchanted Evening” in this style lost me.  But hang on — deep in the set Cosgrove edges into her stride.  First the Pizzarelli/Molasky patter tune “Adam and Eve” (new to me, going through couples of history and literature including the marvelous lyric line “Martha and George, they threw a party just to get the guests”) starts to make me sit up and notice.  And with a trio of tunes by Laura Nyro including “Luckie”, “I Never Meant to Hurt You” and “He’s a Runner” this not overtly emotional performer taps into something true and deep and moving, and I hope for more of the same from her.  (Research tells me again that she has dedicated an entire show to Nyro and will be releasing a CD of Nyro tunes soon, and her communication with that singer songwriter is true and deep and apparent to anyone who hears her.)

Cosgrove hits again with the “Valley of the Dolls” theme song and her penultimate tune of the evening, “Whistling Away the Dark” by Mancini and Mercer from the delicious 1970 Julie AndrewsBlake Edwards WWI period piece Darling Lili delivers the real emotional climax of the show.  We have found her dramatic and vocal sweet spots.

Cosgrove may be exploring and editing her performance set list, and along the way she is finding a number of gems. I am thrilled to have found her and shall enjoy her musical journey.  Tie the pieces together, give us a theme to build the storytelling arc, find the heart of each song, select for that heart that matches the timbre and energy of your style. When all the pieces fit, there is a sob in her delicate soprano that can catch your heart.

© Martha Wade Steketee (May 3, 2012)

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