On this Tony Award weekend, we had the privilege of meeting a fabulous Tony-winner – Laura Benanti – last night at Indianapolis’ The Cabaret at the Columbia Club.
You might recall last fall that I was a staunch defender of NBC’s production of The Sound of Music (click here), which I thought suffered unfairly from a lot of social media-fueled schadenfreude. The one element that did not need defending, by me or anyone else, because it was universally lauded as perfection, was the performance by Laura Benanti as the Baroness.
I am happy to report that she is even more terrific in real life.
Throughout her fizzy cabaret show, not a note is missed – musically, comedically, thematically. She is one of the most engaging performers I’ve ever had the privilege to observe.
I might add that she is just as gracious with all of her fans following the performance in what otherwise can be sometimes awkward for both audience and performer: the dreaded meet and greet. She takes time with each and every one and genuinely connects with all.
With my starstruck gushing aside, what about the performance itself? It is such great fun – a brilliant blend of soaring vocals, crack comic timing, cheeky irreverence, and poignant character analysis. The essence of what makes cabaret such a viable art form.
Benanti is marvelously aided and abetted by her amazing musical director Todd Almond who is as much sidekick and partner as accompanist, composing the original tunes, vocalizing with Benanti, and offering the periodic witty aside. And, by the way, he is equally personable, following the performance, happily taking my loony suggestions of pop nuggets they can skewer in their act – notably, my latest obsession Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea’s “Problem.”
Well, for someone like Benanti who moves seamlessly between My Fair Lady‘s “On the Street Where You Live” to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” to Nine‘s “Unusual Way” (mesmerizing!) not to mention Sisqo’s “The Thong Song,” it seems a logical addition.
This tour is captured live on her album “In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention,” recorded at 54 Below, formerly the iconic disco Studio 54. My recommendation? Buy this album now, and enjoy it like you would a cast recording before going to see a Broadway show. The album is remarkable, but seeing Benanti act and sing these songs live is something not to be missed. There are enough variances between the album and the show to keep things interesting, and I won’t spoil the surprises here. If she comes to your town, run (don’t walk) to see her.
(She also isn’t afraid to go off script, poking gentle fun at the more provincial elements of the Hoosier-land where she was performing. I love my home state, but I give Benanti many props for gently reminding her audience that tolerance and compassion and humanity are essential regardless your background or beliefs. And if one can get that message across with a smile on one’s face, it makes an impact.)
I leave you with a clip of her singing “Mr. Tanner,” a forgotten gem by Harry Chapin. This number was a highlight for me both when I first listened to the recording as well as during the live performance. It definitely gives you a sense of her empathetic philosophy and ebullient heartache. Enjoy!
[All photos by Don Sexton – more here.]
Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.
how wonderful for all of you! how lucky you met her and how lucky that she was such a talented and wonderful person. of course you recommended the fun songs, with her having such a fun and open mind. looks like a great day and one you won’t soon forget )
thanks, Beth! we had a ball – and she was such a delight. just like you!!
On Sun, Jun 8, 2014 at 10:25 PM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
TRUE, JUST LIKE BETH! NO KIDDING! WOW, THIS GAVE ME GOOSEBUMPS…LAURA THE PERSON EMERGES FROM THIS STERLING REVIEW…SHE IS A SPECIAL HUMAN BEING AND AS KAY BALLARD SAID ABOUT DORIS DAY ONCE…”GOD DID SUCH A DANCE AROUND HER” (PROUD OF HIS INVENTION HE WAS!) THIS GIRL IS PERFECTION..JUST LIKE BETH!
beautifully put – you all are marvelous and the planet is lucky to have such witty, clever, thoughtful people on it!
On Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 7:49 PM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
the sextons strike again, with one of their love bombs )
On Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 8:36 PM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
This sounds like an INCREDIBLE evening. It is such a treat to meet a performer who is all that – and has a warm personality too.
Thanks for allowing us to live vicariously through your post!
My pleasure! She truly was. And thanks for your comment and your kind words. I enjoy your blog very much!
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I love and trust Roy! He loves music and performing and is a great judge of Character. I know because he likes me. Lol!
Aw, thank you, friend! I adore you!! ❤️
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