BWW Review: At Don’t Tell Mama, TANYA MOBERLY’S SONGS I FEEL LIKE SINGING WITH STEVEN RAY WATKINS
10:31 AM 2015
Observing the last show of the second cycle of her year-long presentation of Songs I Feel Like Singing–four runs of four different shows with four different musical director/accompanists (Mark Janas, Sean Harkness, Ritt Henn, and Steven Ray Watkins)-one might note that 2014 Bistro Award winner Tanya Moberly presents not so much a cabaret act as an intense “recital in song,” featuring music that seemingly examines the emotional psyche of a woman coming to grips with loneliness, alienation, betrayal, addiction, love, and eventual self acceptance.
This past Friday night, with Watkins at the piano, Moberly took the stage wearing a simple black dress and cowboy boots, and stood in dramatic silhouette against the whirl of a mirrored disco ball before boldly screeching out the 2014 mega pop hit “Chandelier” (Sia Furler/Jesse Shatkin). She delivered the song with all the angst, addiction, and desperation of a “professional party girl” on a really bad night. As all good party girls tend to search for love well into the wee hours of the morning, Moberly resolves her search with the 1992 Annie Lennox hit “Money Can’t Buy It.” Producing more vocal gymnastics than an Olympic champion to showcase an aggressive approach to her music, Moberly remains unapologetic for her ear-shattering high decibel belting throughout an evening of 17 songs, amazingly delivered with such lightning quick speed that the whole show came in at under 60 minutes.
After her third song, Moberly offered the only real patter of the evening (minimal scripting and eschewing a director has always been Moberly’s performing MO) by explaining her premise behind presenting four different shows utilizing four different musicians, then briefly told the audience her cabaret show resume and awards she’s won, yet offered no further explanation of her song choices (other than taking a cue from her show title). She simply “feels” like singing these songs, which for an audience member rather “feels” like going on a road trip with no map. One could surmise Moberly’s song selections might be autobiographical, but then, maybe not.
Basically, Moberly is an enigma, which might explain the philosophy of her chosen song “Code of Silence” (Billy Joel/Cindi Lauper): But you can’t talk about it because you’re following a code of silence/You’re never gonna lose the anger/You just deal with it a different way. She then seamlessly segued into a song of similar subject matter, “Don’t Let it Show” (Parsons/Woolfsan), where Moberly stood brave and resolute at the mic while emotionally conveying to her audience a sense of quietly dying inside. It was difficult to watch yet poignant and one of her best moments in the show.
Next, Moberly performed a series of songs that examines the darker side of loneliness and failed relationships–the 1997 Indigo Girl’s “Leeds” (Emily Saliers), followed by Amy Ziff’s heart breaking 1994 hit “Broken.” Choosing the desolation of space as a metaphor with her next three songs, Moberly explored the human need for escapism resulting in alienation with David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Carole King’s “Spaceship Races.” Her most powerful song in the show was Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” delivered with a tear-stained painful resolve depicting a devastating loneliness erupting deep from within. Moberly offered up a final playful warning with Kenny Loggin’s soft 1974 rock classic “Get A Hold,” then follows with the sad solemn resignation of Dan Fogelberg’s mournfully haunting “Sketches” (from the 1977 Nether Lands album), allowing us to experience through her voice and song the metamorphosis of a love gone terribly wrong.
Moberly’s brave philosophical resolution of the evening might be suggested in Paula Cole’s “Me” as a proclamation of self-acceptance, or then again, maybe it’s just a song she feels like singing.
I am not the person who is singing.
I am the silent one inside
I am not the one who laughs at people’s jokes.
I just pacify their egos.
And it is me who is my enemy
Me who beats me up
Me who makes the monsters
Me who strips my confidence
Musical Director Steven Ray Watkins contributes great arrangements, sensitive piano accompaniment, and vocal backup–that at times lingers in the challenging “choir boy stratosphere”–to balance out Moberly’s high pitched vocal acrobatics. Jason Ellis on lights and sound contributed greatly to the more somber ambience necessary to convey the mood of the evening.
Tanya Moberly is a unique, bold cabaret artist noted for bearing her soul in song, but as a performer she remains an enigma. Moberly has scheduled another run of these four shows with her four different musicians throughout the fall (making her final tally an impressive 20 performances in 2015).
Tanya Moberly will return with “Songs I Feel Like Singing” on Friday, October 23 at 7 pm with Mark Janas; Friday, November 6 at 7 pm with Sean Harkness; Friday, November 13 at 9:30 pm with Ritt Henn; and Friday, November 20 at 9:30 pm with Steven Ray Watkins–all at Don’t Tell Mama. For reservations call 212-757-0788 after 4 pm or go to the website www.donttellmamanyc.com.