The Sean Harkness Show
Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, September 15, 2017
Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes
Is there anyone in cabaret more enterprising than Tanya Moberly? Somehow, between a busy directing and producing schedule, Moberly has found the time to take on the herculean task of presenting six entirely different shows in the next three months, each with a completely different choice of musical styles. Easy, right?
In this first installment, Moberly—along with guitarist Sean Harkness—has focused on singer/songwriter material from 1968 to 1977, encompassing a myriad of aural aesthetics from Paul Simon to Joni Mitchell to Led Zeppelin. One might worry that pieces with such scope of rock orchestration in their original recordings might lack variety in a 75-minute show presented with only guitar and female solo vocal; however, this was far from the case.
In fact, the intimacy of the show’s pieces elegantly illuminated the nuance of lyric and musical writing. Piano bar favorite “Rocket Man” (Elton John/Bernie Taupin) suddenly has a quiet rumble when in their hands, drawing us forward to its plaintive haggardness. “Fly Like an Eagle” (Steve Miller) resonated with an apocalyptic bite, so rarely noticed in its original recorded format. And “Never Been to Spain” (Hoyt Axton) sizzled with sexual longing, laced with innuendo, and Moberly delivers with aplomb.
The musicality throughout was unmistakably strong with Moberly’s nimble voice, fiercely resolute in its forwardness, stroking the phrasing at every turn. Harkness’ hands were on fire with exquisite guitar playing, particularly in a difficult “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Jimmy Page/Robert Plant). To put it bluntly, this is a pair of pros.
Surprisingly, some of the pieces lacked the profound personalization we’ve come to expect from Moberly. But her “Dear Prudence” (John Lennon), with its gentle longing and astute restraint, made up for any reservations one might have regarding her interpretive prowess. And, if the other five shows are as strong as this series’ debut, Moberly will again prove why she is in a cabaret category unto herself.