March 3, 1999
She’s prettier than her picture, softer, with a broader smile, though the photo does catch a bit of the twinkle in her eye. Amanda McBroom opened at the Plush Room last night and if San Franciscans have any sense at all they will fill up that boite for the balance of her twelve day stand.
McBroom exudes a sort of unpushy confidence. She seems utterly relaxed in her body and in her stage presence. If there are any nerves on edge, it doesn’t show a whit. So when she takes the stage, the audience quickly relaxes with her and lets her display her lovely lyric mezzo soprano instrument, her intelligent musical phrasing, and her way with words, many of them her own. Her articulation is superb, her projection appropriate, and she is a natural actress, which any cabaret singer worth her salt simply must be.
McBroom, of course, soared to stardom as the writer of The Rose, a perennial favorite and the title piece of the 1979 Bette Midler film. Uhhhhh, 1979. Twenty years ago. Ms. McBroom is a lady of a certain age…in this case the lower range of the required age for a cabaret singer. We don’t go to cabaret to listen to young things warble songs they don’t have enough experience to understand. We go to cabaret to hear experienced performers share, through artfully rendered song, some of their joys and some of their pain…what they have seen and learned, what wisdom they have picked up along the way.
McBroom does it all. In Errol Flynn she gives us a lovely and loving elegy for her father, David Bruce (nee Marden McBroom, 1914-1976), who was a supporting actor in films. Round is an amusing paean to the joys of eating, avoiding the gym, and the Rubenesque figure. A Martha Stewart parody highlights McBroom’s satirical, wry observational powers. make Me a Kite showcases the ability of her voice to soar, backed by a deliciously florid piano arrangement by her accompanist and sometimes co-writer, Joel Silberman.
McBroom’s taste in repertoire from other writers is impeccable. CV especially liked a sultry, bluesy Hoagy Carmichael number, Baltimore Oriole, Laurie Lieberman’s Love Song, Larry Hart’s My Funny Valentine (sounding new again), and Jacques Brel’s Carousel.
In the end, though, at least until we get the CDs and listen some more, we carry away wisps of wonderful McBroom phrases: the people you never get to love and You can have the tv; I’ll take the radio and Disappointment and bourbon are hard on the heart. Bittersweet, but cleansed of sentimentality. Thank you, Amanda McBroom.