It’s the time of The Woman, and it’s long overdue, and Marnie Klar has something to sing about it.
by Stephen Mosher Dec. 3, 2021
Walking through the Piano Bar at Don’t Tell Mama, toward The Brick Room, I spotted Steven Ray Watkins chatting with Matt Scharfglass. As I rounded the corner, I saw Don Kelly, seated, waiting to go on. Boy, thought I, if this is the band for the Marnie Klar show, this is going to be one heck of an act. Watkins, Kelly, and Scharfglass represent a high quality of music-making in the club and concert industry – Marnie Klar was, clearly, not fooling around when she put together A WOMAN’S PREROGATIVE.
Ms, Klar’s long-overdue show about the women of the music industry was born out of her previous act about Bobbie Gentry, she explains, and how her deep-dive into the life and work of the woman who gave the world “Ode to Billy Joe” left her thinking of how “tired and fed up” the trailblazer must have been from fighting the male-dominated world of her time. Relating Gentry’s experience, then, to her own, now, Klar presents an exceptionally fun, supremely satisfying collection of songs from over the decades, albeit a collection that is particularly informed by the musical artists of the past. There are hit songs showcased in A Woman’s Prerogative from the last twenty-one years, but the major portion of the musical offerings originate in the sixties and seventies, which was just fine for this writer who was raised by a strong, empowered, feminist Mother during the decades that seem to, most, interest Ms. Klar. In fact, thanks to Mama Mosher, I knew every single song, Marnie sang, which probably informed the extremity with which I enjoyed her show, particularly getting into such danceable music as Carly Simon‘s “Think I’m Gonna Have a Baby” – a particular highlight because it wasn’t a hit for Simon, making it all the more special when a talent like Klar gets behind it.
A Woman’s Prerogative is a modern club act. Yes, it is informed by a time fifty years older than the one in which we now live, but it is centered around the era when women began to really speak out and speak up for themselves – interesting because Marnie Klar fits (like the gloves that women were no longer wearing in the Seventies) this exact vibe. In the era of bra-burning and the ERA, female artists were changing, right along with the times. Actresses from the previous generation really ACTED on film, women like Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford, while the actresses of the Seventies embraced a more natural style, women like Jane Fonda, Cicely Tyson, and Julie Christie. The same could be said of the musical artists making records reflecting both generations. Marnie KIar’s acting during her musical storytelling is keeping right in line with the actresses and the singers of the Seventies; she tells the stories in the songs she is singing but she keeps it all on her face. As the musical composition comes out of her mouth with a vocal sound that is both interesting and pleasing, the journey of Klar’s facial expressions and the depth of meaning in her eyes is discernible in ways emotional but not overwhelming. The tales being told in numbers like “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and a Charity Hope Valentine/Demi Lovato mash-up are personal, and personally informed, the former bringing out shades of the Carly Simon hit heretofore unexplored, and the latter giving rise to the sounds of sniffling in the nightclub air. There is no overacting here, only modern-day storytelling from an empowered woman in touch with her emotions and how to express them.
Presenting her song cycle with purpose and enviable diction, Marnie is vocally impressive on most of her material, almost all of it originating from female storytellers, either on the back-end or at the mic. Working with creations by women like Nancy Ford & Gretchen Cryer or Amanda McBroom, embodying characters like “Harper Valley PTA”s Mrs. Johnson and the unnamed ruthless actress in “Big Time” by Wildhorn & Murphy, or singing songs made famous by women like Dusty Springfield and Dolly Parton, Klar runs the gamut in genres from Thirties jazz (“Why Don’t You Do Right”) to Sixties standards (“When In Rome”) to Eighties pop (a stunning “Til Death Do Us Part” that erases, completely, any memory of Madonna). There is, though, one song that doesn’t feel right in the show – not in the lineup, and not in Marnie’s voice.
About halfway through the concert, Klar has chosen to present the song “I Chose Right” from the musical Baby. It’s a song that was written by two men for a male actor to perform while portraying a young man who is singing to his pregnant girlfriend. Nothing about the song fits into the concept of the program, and the song itself did not fit Marnie’s vocal abilities; after performing this composition, Marnie’s voice sounded like it had been pushed to the limit. For the rest of the act, Ms. Klar seemed to be reaching for notes or trying to catch her breath. The quality of the storytelling and the enjoyment of the show were not diminished but there was an element of vocal fatigue at times, only surfacing after the performance of this one song that does not land properly in Ms. Klar’s range. Since she is being so expertly guided by director Tanya Moberly and musical director Steven Ray Watkins, perhaps the threesome could revisit the choice to have this selection in their program.
A Woman’s Prerogative being a show about the strong, individual, empowered women who have populated the music industry, it is the perfect show for Marnie Klar to be doing. She skillfully represents these icons and legends of the past, as well as the women of today, and herself, with one of the most listenable voices around, one ideally suited for the recording studio. The only problem with Marnie Klar singing in a recording booth is that during a live performance one has the benefit of her visible sass and skill, as the singing actress doesn’t only tell the stories of the women in the songs, she tells the stories of the women who made them. It’s a legacy worth continuing and Klar is doing the legacy, the ladies, and herself quite proud.
Marnie Klar gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.
Photos by Stephen Mosher