PIZZA ON THE PARK, HURT’S SO GOOD…CABARET
Clive Davis, The Times
When actresses reach a certain age, they often complain that the good parts are not being written for them any more. If only they were vocalists, they could turn to the bittersweet creations of Amanda McBroom.
Not that the West Coast singer-songwriter’s work can be defined purely by age or gender. What she captures so adroitly is the wistfulness of dreams deferred, ambitions unfulfilled, marriages sinking into what song Dance terms “comfortable despair”. Songs as haunting and ethereal as Ship in a Bottle pin down stray emotions as precisely as an Anne Tyler novel.
This might sound like an excuse to wallow in Californian self-pity. It is certainly true that McBroom’s heart-on-sleeve style can come as a shock to the British system. But she balances the pathos and anguish with humor.
Standards old and new are carefully filtered into the mix. Segues abounded, and McBroom and her flamboyant accompanist Joel Silberman self consciously stitched together the verse of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and the refrain of My Funny Valentine. She and the worldly Lorenz Hart made a good combination nonetheless.
Jacques Brel provides another source of inspiration. Notably in the audacious and demented waltz that is Carousel. Inexorably gathering speed, until the words teetered on the edge of gibberish, the song brought all of McBroom’s acting skills to bear.
A more sedate waltz tempo underpins Errol Flynn, the poignant vignette inspired by her father, the Hollywood actor David Bruce. Barbara Cook has made this song her own; McBroom stole it back. Where most cabaret singers veer towards the conversational, she favours a more theatrical stance, abruptly leaping into the upper register to add emphasis.
Earlier, she had signaled another telling change of gear when she dipped into her high school past to treat Carole King’s Will You Love Me Tomorrow as a glowing ballad stripped of artifice. Silberman, who has just guided classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet through an album of Ellington melodies, enjoyed his solo moment in the spotlight with an uptown treatment of Don’t Get Around Much Any More. Very debonair, very Dukish.