The Wow! factor

Songs in the Style of Weill

Conceived and created by Lorinda Lisitza and Hal Simons
Don't Tell Mama
343 W. 46th Street (757-0788)
Closes Jan. 29
Review by Doug DeVita

With her angular but lithe body; her large, expressive eyes; and her short, red bob of hair; and dressed in a tight-fitting skirt and low-cut sleeveless top, Lorinda Lisitza is the physical embodiment of the era of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. And when she wraps her voice around one of their songs, or any of the songs that she considers "in the style of Weill," time and care melt away, and all that is left is the palpable thrill of a confident artist secure in the knowledge that her material and her audience are right where she wants them: in the palm of her hand.

Her cabaret show, Songs in the Style of Weill, covers quite a range: from Weill's partnerships with Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, and Ogden Nash, to work from songwriters as diverse as Marc Blitzstein, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, and Kander & Ebb, among others, the common thread being in the way each song tells a complete story. Lisitza's voice, limpid and sweet or brassy and bold depending on the song's needs, was always crystal-clear and communicated every small detail necessary to make each number a shiny gem of musical storytelling. In addition, her joy in performing these songs, her relaxed, inviting performing style and informative, chatty patter gave the show a wonderfully bewitching intimacy. Her director, Hal Simons, who kept things moving with graceful simplicity, and her musical director, Albert Ahronheim, who played with a jazzy intensity that complemented her heartfelt elegance, ably supported her, as did Bobby Kneeland's colorful lighting, particularly the glowing backdrop of stars used in the show's final moments.

Early in the show, Lisitza explains how she discovered her love of Kurt Weill's work early on in life, and in one charmingly wistful moment relates how she became so distracted singing one of his songs while working on her father's farm that she drove a tractor into a grove of trees. How lucky it is that her natural métier is not the farm, that she discovered Weill and has made it her business to interpret his work, as well as other composers whose storytelling ability is "in the style of Weill." For Lisitza has tapped into a rich vein of material that suits her well, and she, and her show, are causes for simply surrendering and falling in love with the sheer "wow factor" of the talent that she shares so generously.

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Musical Direction: 2
Performance: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting:/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita