The sound of Meg Flather’s RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN The music is divine at Don’t Tell Mama
On September 6, 2021, Meg Flather launched her 2021+ Rodgers & Hammerstein Musical Cabaret after being delayed by a pandemic, quarantine and a show business shutdown. Broadway World Cabaret had a new correspondent, Ricky Pope, who had spent his life (his whole life) living and working as a musician, musical theater student, composer and expert on what is and what makes music. good music and lyrics. . Ricky Pope was Broadway World Cabaret‘s natural correspondent to cover the opening of the new Flather show, and what’s more, he was asked to do so. So his editor (the person writing this story) scratched the date off the calendar (read: deleted it from Google) and let Ricky Pope do his thing. What came out of the release was a smart review of a smart show… and this lover of all things cabaret, R&H and Flather made the decision to see the program sooner rather than later.
Months later, the earliest possible convenience showed up on Sunday evening, twenty-eight weeks after that first performance and the many other performances that had followed.
Well, it was definitely worth the wait.
Rarely do I use the space of a column to review a cabaret and concert program that has already been covered by another Broadway World Cabaret reporter; in fact, I can only think of one other time, and that was Farah Alvin’s B-Side show, also originally reviewed by Ricky Pope. When something really special happens, however, it’s important to say it’s special, and that’s why, on this day, I’m obligated to report something special that I saw in Don’ t Tell Mama on Sunday when I caught (finally caught) Meg Flather’s new show.
Rodgers & Hammerstein 2021+ is a cabaret. It’s not a concert, it’s not a set, it’s a cabaret show, good and clean, and Meg Flather is a First Order Kabarettist. With this seventy-minute program, Ms. Flather accomplishes a short list of impressive feats: she revisits, reexamines and reinvents the classic works of two legendary designers, she marries the past with the present in elegant and relevant ways, and she proves , once again, that she is one of the finest performers of the art of cabaret working today. What could have been a seemingly innocuous tribute show becomes both a socio-political statement and a beacon of hope, and what could have been a rote show becomes a flamboyant example of what cabaret can be when a artist takes the time and effort to do their job. Performing eighteen Rodgers and Hammerstein songs in sixteen impressively and intellectually arranged numbers (a suspect by Mrs. Flather in close collaboration with longtime music manager Tracy Stark), Flather keeps her feet on the ground at all times, never becoming never lofty or ethereal, always remaining honest and invested in both the story Rodgers and Hammerstein created and the one Meg Flather lives through. Each of the sixteen performances is a masterclass in storytelling, as Flather fully wraps himself in the character of the story and the monologue being told. There’s no half-hearted preoccupation with the race or gender of the original character, no attempt to arrange things that wouldn’t be possible in a theatrical production; only Meg Flather uses her considerable acting skills and clarion voice to tell the stories, allowing them to land where they can, in the hearts and minds of every audience member. Note the resounding ferocity (and resounding success) with which Flather performs “A Puzzlement” and “Lonely Room” – two songs written for male characters (one of them written in broken English for an Asian character) which, between Flather’s hands, become songs that seem to have been written only yesterday and exclusively for his personal use. While both of these performances rank among the highlights of the night for this writer, other audience members will likely find a deconstructed “My Favorite Things” or an assertive “Allegro” more resonant, both equally impressed. A transition from “People Will Say We’re In Love” to “No Other Love” plays like tender wedding vows exchanged first by one spouse, then by another, and Stark’s marriage from the ballads of The King & I and Carousel is rendering a conversation between married people who have been married for more than a minute. From start to finish, there’s no task Meg Flather sets herself that isn’t done to an enviable degree of quality (although this writer was saddened by a redacting of material from “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”).
During eloquent and heartfelt acknowledgments, Flather heaps praise on fellow director Lennie Watts and musical director Tracy Stark, and since the trio are one of the industry’s regular artistic families, one must assume that the work sessions that led to the creation of this musical exploration were filled with artistic flight and a deep dive into the material. However, it should not be taken for granted that Flather was driving this train. It’s extremely important to have guidance from its administrators, and Stark and Watts certainly have a reputation for backing up Meg’s praise. However, the entire program bears the Flather signature throughout, and one suspects that Lennie and Tracy would jump at the chance to point out that Meg Flather is the kind of performer who walks through the door on the first day of rehearsal with the set show scripted in his brain. It’s that kind of artistic vision and that kind of artistic partnership that provides such quality cabaret, and Misses Flather and Stark, and Mister Watts should consider what they’ve created here to be one of the true works of cabaret art currently playing New York City, and a show that anyone who appreciates cabaret art should see, hurry. It is, as Lady Thiang might say, something wonderful.
Meg Flather Rodgers & Hammerstein 2021+ plays Don’t Tell Mama on April 17 at 6 p.m. Information and tickets available HERE.
Meg Flather has a website HERE.
Photo of Meg Flather by Helane Blumfield.