Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
November 9, 2012
Bronwyn Rucker, who began her cabaret performances as a stand up comic at the original site of The Duplex several years ago, returned to the Duplex at its Christopher Street address November 9 to present her new show entitled, appropriately, In The Village. “In The Village,” by A. Michael Tilford, is actually one of the first songs in the show, which is a great list song (kind of like Bernstein-Comden & Green’s “Christopher Street”) with several references to Greenwich Village past and present, especially referring to long gone and lamented cabaret and clubs as well as the current scene. Stylishly dressed in black, purple and pink Rucker was accompanied by Tilford on two of the opening songs.
Tilford was replaced on the piano by composer Marc McBarron Kessler who has antic energy, great comic patter and comments for Kessler’s original songs. One, “You Are A Star” is a real winner on which Kessler and Rucker duet as he encourages Rucker to overcome her depression about losing jobs as a performer.
Rucker also devoted a section to what could be called Rucker’s “greatest hits,” from her previous shows. Bringing Woody Regan up to the piano, Rucker explained how, with the aid of Regan, she began to integrate music into her standup acts. “Subway Named Desire” is her great monologue about riding the subway and asking other riders to help her in her crusade to help the homeless. Rucker was a social worker in homeless shelters when she originally performed this piece and “Subway” has lost none of its effectiveness. If anything, given the current homeless population, it is even more effective. There are some more Rucker-Regan collaborations, including what she calls “Radon Medley” from her Radon Babies show and funny monologues about village characters including a street character who wants to play Shaw’s St. Joan.
Out of the audience Rucker picks out Mischa Kischkum and suddenly they are playing Blanche and Mitch in their first scene together from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (when Mitch sits out a few hands of the poker game). The two don’t make fun of the scene, they give it full warmth and dramatic justice and it leads effectively to Kischkum sitting down at the piano and playing a beautiful melody which is his original composition “As You Pictured It” which Rucker sings as a natural flow from the Blanche-Stanley scene.
More Kischkum songs follow, all gems, and Rucker gives assured performances on the optimistic and emotionally moving “Clear is the Thing You Must Do,“ “Memories To Make,“ and “What If Tomorrow,“ another optimistic list song with comic punch lines. On one of them, “One of A Team,” Rucker brings back the antic Kessler and Regan, with Kessler leading them in a high kicking chorus line! It’s a very funny routine because each of them has a different physical shape so that chorus line is not a Rockettes’ actual precision routine, but a rough, funny group who are not natural dancers but doing the best with their own bodies. You don’t only laugh at them, you laugh with them!
Yes, in the past, Rucker has sometimes been inconsistent musically, sacrificing musical accuracy for dramatic effect but in In The Village Bronwyn Rucker’s musical choices are very effective. In her phrasing, she chooses cannily when to go for deep low notes and knows when to pause and break for a high note. In this show with so many original songs there were no dropped lyrics or musical miscues.
For singers looking for new original material, In The Village is a must-see for the work of A. Michael Tilford, Marc McBarron Kessler, Woody Regan, and Mischa Kischkum. For the finale, the packed Duplex crowd all joined in on a group sing-a-long reprise of Tilford’s “In the Village.“ For those seeking a lift in this dismal winter, there’s no better stimulant than Bronwyn Rucker’s In The Village.
Bronwyn Rucker’s In The Village repeats Wednesday, November 28 and Friday, November 30 at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street, New York City. Both shows are at 7:00 PM. Call 212 757-0788 for reservations. Bronwyn Rucker’s website is www.BronwynRucker.com
Marc McBarron Kessler’s musical play, Notes From the Underground with J. Michael Reeds will be performed Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 PM at Don’t Tell Mama. Marc McBarron Kessler’s website is www.marcmcbaronkessler.com