Review by Tulis McCall
I first saw Rita Wilson a year ago at the Café Carlyle and was immediately enchanted. Wilson is the real deal. She is talented and generous, exuberant ant thoughtful, hopeful and pragmatic. With her recent show at the Café Carlyle, Rita Wilson: Liner Notes, she is extending her reach to bring other artists into our spheres of reference. It is not enough for Wilson to stand in the spotlight. She wants to spread the wealth.
DioGuardi wrote P!nk’s Sober and co-wrote six tracks on Kelly Clarkson’s sophomore album, Breakaway. Douglas has been active in the industry since the early 90s – he started composing when he was in his early 40’s – and has written top ten hits for Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, and Miranda Lambert – House That Built Me. Patty Smyth is an Oscar and Grammy nominated writer known for, among other songs Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough – recorded as a duet with Don Henley.
For the rest of the run the trio of Wilson, DioGuardi and Douglas will remain and be joined by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen) on the 17th and Dan Wilson (Someone Like You – co-written with Adele) October 18th thru the 20th.
The quartet is lined up on the front of the stage (Wilson swears that JZ and Beyonce have their eye on this postage stamp of a playing area) and there they pretty much stay. Douglas performs his songs at the piano and the others stay put in their chairs except for when they cannot take it any longer and stand the hell up. They are all supported mightily by Nadia DiGiallonardo on piano and Andrew Doolittle and Keith Mack on guitar. (Mack played exclusively
These musicians are every bit as exquisite as Wilson and one wonders why they do not have enormous careers as solo performers. Dioguardi admits that she has no interest in going on tour. She is a Herb Alpert visiting scholar at Berklee College of music. She is a composer and collaborator. That is what she wants. Douglas and Smyth never talk about this, and one gets the feeling that they are living lives on their own terms as well.
Frankly, I got lost in the music as one performer after another gave us the gift of their work. Each song was a jewel and spoke of love, longing and life. The audience was entranced. I was moved in particular by Wilson’s Strong Tonight about a woman who is strong enough to fall apart. DioGuardi’s Sober, Douglas’s House That Built Me and Smyth’s Look What Love Has Done hit me and the rest of the audience like heat seeking missiles. Ka-boom.
If there were one thing that I would quibble about it is the length of the evening. Instead of the customary running time of 70-90 minutes, this show clocks in at well over 2 hours. On the stroke of 11 o’clock the audience started getting antsy. Miscellaneous chatter and lots of coughing. There are four rounds of songs that could easily be cut down to three rounds – because these performers are all well beyond very, very good. They are so good wondered why they all did not sing backup with one another. They certainly knew the words. Alternatively – cut down on the chit chat, which is charming at first, but gets in the way of the pacing as the evening goes on. Yes, yes we care about the story of the song, even if we didn’t know we cared. That is precisely what Wilson is looking to give us – background and history to the soundtracks of our lives. Bravo to that.
More than the stories, however, I say we care about the music. The stories are anecdotal. The music is the main course. When the stories start to take over the evening like ivy climbing up the trunk of a tree, the evening loses its balance and spark.
Consider this advice from The King – “A little less conversation, a little more action, please.”
PS the two people on either side of me both said they wished the evening had been longer.
And there you have it.
REMINDER NO FOOD being served at the Carlyle while kitchen is being renovated. Performances will take place Tuesday – Saturday at 8:45pm. Weekday pricing begins at $100 per person / Bar Seating: $75/ Premium Seating:$150. Weekend pricing begins at $125 per person/Bar Seating: $100 45/Premium Seating:$175. Reservations can be made by phone at 212.744.1600 or online via Ticketweb. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).