Shannon Hunt | May 21, 2023
Forever Me with Love
Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 10, 2023
Reviewed by Shannon Hunt
Gliding to the stage in her shimmering black gown, Margo Brown instantly transported the room at Don’t Tell Mama to a 1940s supper club. The glamorous chanteuse has just released her debut album, Forever Me with Love, and she celebrated in style by delivering a delightful 12-song tribute to old-fashioned romance.
She opened with George and Ira Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and her elegant voice embodied the hopeful longing of the lyrics. As a young girl, she told us, she expected one day to one day find her soul mate as her own parents had; their long and happy marriage had given her a blueprint of the “perfect relationship.” This bittersweet anecdote set up her beautiful rendition of “Make Someone Happy” (Betty Comden/Adolph Green/Jule Styne).
As she eventually learned, a “perfect relationship” is harder to find than it looks, and it may not even exist). Her mother, it turned out, believed that marital happiness was possible only by maintaining complete control. This toxic family dynamic was bound to doom the singer’s own relationships, and it resulted in her having two marriages (and divorces) before her 30th birthday.
Throughout her 70-minute show, her smooth and steady vocals embraced the warmth, yearning, and heartache found in the American Songbook, especially in “The Very Thought of You” (Ray Noble) and “All the Things You Are” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II). Her bassist Steve Doyle and pianist Jon Weber (also her music director) were splendid and seamless as usual, showcasing why they’re among the best in the business.
While her perfectly pitched voice exuded a strong self-assurance, her stage presence revealed an underlying vulnerability. Dressed to the nines with perfectly coiffed hair and highest-of-high heels, the poised singer maintained a façade of old-school glitz and glamour, reminiscent of classic Hollywood. Yet her demeanor also occasionally revealed a sense of hesitancy; as in those old nostalgic films, it seemed at times as though we were watching her in black and white, not in full color. She seemed much more in her element when singing rather than narrating, however, so director Tanya Moberly smartly kept the bits and banter between songs as short and sweet as possible. This played to Brown’s strengths and kept the show moving at a brisk pace.
The songbird’s confidence grew as she sailed along with a string of Alan and Marilyn Bergman-penned classics that included “Where Do You Start” (co-written with Johnny Mandel), “The Summer Knows” (with Michel Legrand) and “If We Were in Love” (with John T. Williams).
Eventually, she told us that she stopped looking for love—and that’s when she finally did meet the love of her life, the man who has been her husband for decades. Now older and much wiser, she’s discovered that there is no perfect love, and that even the most loving and passionate marriage requires constant compromise and work to make it last. It’s an idea she explored in the Bergman/Legrand “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.”
She closed the night with the heartfelt, reflective ballad “My Favorite Year” (Michele Brourman/Karen Gottlieb), followed by “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington); this encore offered each of her wonderful musicians one last chance to shine with standout solos.
Margo Brown’s CD, Forever Me with Love, is now available at streaming sites such as Amazon and on her website, margobrownentertainment.com, for $20.