The not-to-be-missed show puts Tanya and twenty-five songwriters in the best light to be found.
by Stephen Mosher Oct. 19, 2021
The monologue play is a time-honored genre of theater that audiences have been enjoying for many years, producing works of art like Talking With, The Vagina Monologues, Love, Loss, and What I Wore and many others. These pieces of theater usually follow a theme of some kind, though they usually have no linear track. When a theatrical offering of this nature is made up of musical monologues it is called a revue. The most successful creators of musical revues made up of monologues in the form of song are Maltby and Shire, who gave the world Starting Here, Starting Now, an evening of songs about young people beginning their adult lives – it is one of the most respected works of this nature ever to be created.
I LOVE NEW YORK SONGWRITERS PART II is a new show by Tanya Moberly that is easily confused with a cabaret show, a concert, or even a revue but it is actually an evening of monologues. Yes, the monologues are all in the form of song, but this is no mere night out watching a singer belt out some tunes for which she has a particular fondness: this is a chance to watch a singing actress take a Herculean leap into a series of characters and stories, turning on a dime with less than a moment to inhabit the next space into which she will land. It is a fascinating and impressive feat of musical storytelling that stands out among all of the other offerings of the current cabaret and concert season.
Tanya Moberly produced the show I LOVE NEW YORK SONGWRITERS eight years ago to showcase the works of composers and lyricists who may not have been born in New York City but who made Manhattan their home with such fervor that they were and are real New Yorkers. The original incarnation was a major success for Moberly but this sequel took years to put together and was due to debut when the global health crisis shelved the project until now, and it was definitely worth waiting for because not only is Moberly a world-class storyteller, she is a master curator. The collection of twenty-three songs range in topic and style, form and content, length and intensity to formulate what is most easily described as a gallery of paintings into which one can completely lose oneself, before moving on to the next immaculately framed work of art. The painter and the framer? Moberly herself.
Spectacularly, Ms. Moberly conducts her program with very little talk, saving everything for her stories, and during her opening speech in which she provides backstory, context, and a heartfelt tribute to the late Rick Jensen, you realize you could listen to Tanya talk all night. The talking, though, is over at that point, and the fun begins. Every emotion is on display here as Tanya carefully, thoughtfully, intentionally chooses when to give the story to the horizon line and when to get down on the same level as the audience. Never shutting us out, she talks to us, she tells the stories to us, she welcomes us into her world(s) – it is a skill some club and concert performers seem uncannily unable to reach but that appears to be as easy for Moberly as cutting an ice cream cake with a hot knife. There is power and wisdom in the act of observing an artist so adept at embodying every action, every emotion to be found in their musical monologue, even when the action is stillness and the emotion is restraint. Working with compositions that lean into blues, rock, musical theater, country, ballad, r&b and quirky special material, Moberly is ferocious in her commitment to the material and to the songwriters, and these are songwriters lucky to have her in their corner.
It is difficult to sit and listen to seventy minutes of new material – it takes a lot of attention. Not here. Tanya Moberly has gathered to her bosom works of musical storytelling that most members of the audience will have not heard before because (irritatingly) these New York songwriters are mostly unrecorded by singers with a big enough following to make their compositions famous. Nevertheless, the songs have been written and deserve to be sung because they are wonderful creations. Underline it. Every one of these bits of musical poetry was new to this writer with a short attention span, and each of them held my attention, thanks to Tanya’s storytelling. I now know twenty-three new songs I didn’t know before because Tanya Moberly took them (and their creators) under her wing and put them into the light. These are artists and artwork that Ms. Moberly is intent upon showcasing and promoting, sending the audience home for an evening at the computer searching Google, YouTube, and Spotify, and good for her. It’s a noble goal, one that the baller Moberly executes to the fullest extent of her ability, both as an artist and as a producer. It is more than clear that Moberly the director, Moberly the talent booker, Moberly the teacher, is really Moberly the Musical Monologist, and every person with a focus on seeing that which is good and that which is great about the art of cabaret should get their focus firmly on getting to Don’t Tell Mama to see her upcoming performances of this show, one that needs as long a run as she and the club can manage to make happen.
The I LOVE NEW YORK SONGWRITERS PART II band is made up of the supreme and extraordinary Steven Ray Watkins (Musical Director and piano), Matt Scharfglass (bass), and Bradley Bosenbeck (violin), and even though Tanya is the show, these three artists are also worth the price of admission. Together, the foursome is an elegant Ace in the Hole of musical entertainment.
For a complete list of songwriters represented in I LOVE NEW YORK SONGWRITERS PART II, please refer to the show art below; read the names, they are worth knowing.
Buy tickets to the November 19 or December 17 performances of I LOVE NEW YORK SONGWRITERS PART II at the Don’t Tell Mama website HERE.
THIS is the Tanya Moberly website.
Tanya Moberly gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.