- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed by: Alix Cohen – August 12, 2012
Marieann Meringolo is a helluva vocalist. She has wide range, skillfully honed control, and the lung power of Dizzy Gillespie. Open throttle notes take exhilarating flight. She’s theatrically expressive but mercifully restrained where gestures are concerned, extension of an arm or open palm feel necessary. Meringolo vibrates with energy and stage presence. One can practically see music snake through her. When she looks into audience faces-still, not nearly often enough, she connects. A single number performed among and flirting with audience members exuded warmth.
Sunday’s Birthday show, attended by friends and family as well as fans, was the kind of one-off celebration that often causes performers to lose perspective. Meringolo was no exception. The two hour event featured too many songs, several in overly lengthy versions, which neither bore relationship to one another nor offered an emotional path. Zigzag performance order included successive BIG endings -this rarely, if ever, works-and my personal least favorite “I Was Born in Love With You,” a song from Wuthering Heights whose histrionic nature is completely dissonant to an evening of a decidedly different genre.
“Head Over Heels,” a pretty, country-flavored duet with and by Doyle Newmyer set a pop-centric tone followed by a fluidly arranged Dionne Warwick medley. The choice to sing “Alfie,” without using the name, was surprisingly effective, focusing attention on the universality of the lyric. Meringolo can slide from stage whisper to belt with remarkable finesse.
Several Michel Legrand songs out of the singer’s appearance at Feinstein’s followed. As the majority of the audience had undoubtedly seen that show, I wondered at these choices. Treating “The Windmills of Your Mind” as an insinuating tango rescued it from repetition.
Highlights included three duets: “A Different World” with Eric Michael Gillett was powerful and moving. For a moment, Meringolo seemed not just accessible but vulnerable. Gillett’s beautiful baritone caressed the lyric and reached out to her. “For Good” (from the musical Wicked) with Barbara Porteus showcased Meringolo’s ability to take the highline of harmony as well as low. Porteus’ slight vibrato and emotional vocals provided an able match. “Enough is Enough” with Toni Condos-Bennett, a long, rousing number backed by enthusiastic Cabana Boys Bill Brooks and Britt Hall, raised the roof with disco fervor. Condos-Bennett’s strong, clear, sassy voice had an infectiously good time with that of Meringolo. Audience feet tapped, hands clapped, heads bobbed.
A truly affecting encore of “Never Never Land” was as subdued, simple, and direct as I’ve seen the performer.
Marieann Meringolo-The Birthday Show!
Director Eric Michael Gillett
Doyle Newmyer-Musical Director/Arranger/Piano; Boots Maleson-Bass