By Sarah Downs
In her show “My Favorite Things” on Monday night, Grammy and Golden Globe winning songwriter and cabaret star Amanda McBroom treated us to a master class in stage performance. From her first step into the spotlight to her final note, McBroom had the audience in the palm of her hand. She is a true songstress.
McBroom kicked off the night with the perfect opening number. In “Take a Bite” she playfully invited us all to jump in with her, to take a risk or two. Moving on through the touching innocence of “Ship in a Bottle” to the sly sophistication of “”Eggs,” she embarked on a journey that transformed into more of an emotional portrait. This wasn’t a ‘theme’ cabaret – she doesn’t need to have a theme to make an evening of music make sense.
Making her way through a variety of vocal textures and time signatures, McBroom demonstrated a true command of style. The attention to detail, the grounding of lyrics in truth, and the patience to take her time with the music are skills born of experience. Her stage presence is natural, however. It is something that cannot be taught.
Indeed, with a near perfect rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” set to an outstanding, haunting arrangement that evoked both mystery and circus music, McBroom cast a spell we were loath to break.
In contrast to the lighthearted humor and vulnerability of the first part of the evening, late in her set, McBroom launched fearlessly into an a cappella rendition of her own devastating composition, “Baby in a Box.” She attacked the relentless melody of Jacques Brel’s hypnotic “Carousel” with equal vigor, as if to say life is for the living, but it’s not all fun and games.
The two-man band supporting McBroom made an essential contribution to the setting. Jered Egan on bass grounded the music with an almost delicate tone, teasing out a variety of tonal colors as he alternately plucked and bowed the standing bass. Pianist and musical director Michele Brourman is an orchestra unto herself.
McBroom brought the show to a close with a tender and powerful interpretation of “The Rose,” which sounded as fresh as if she were discovering each lyric for the first time. How many songwriters can boast of a song so iconic that when you ask an audience to sing along with you they actually do? This is the domain of rock stars, and in the world of cabaret, the multi-talented, multi-tasking Amanda McBroom is a rock star.