United States Maureen O’Flynn, “At the Crossroads”: Maureen O’Flynn (soprano), Feinstein’s, New York City. 10.1.2012 (BH)
Eric Michael Gillett: Director
Don Rebic: Music Director
Sanford Fisher: Producer
Jim Hershman: Guitar
Danny Mallon: Percussion
Dick Sarpolla: Bass
Stephen Sondheim: “Make the Most of Your Music”
Charles Strouse and Stephen Schwartz: “Blame It on the Summer Night”
Leigh Harline and Ned Washington: “When You Wish Upon a Star”
Leslie Bricusse: “At the Crossroads”
Billy Goldenberg and Alan & Marilyn Bergman: “If I Close My Eyes”
Craig Carnelia: “Flight”
Roger Edens, Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin: “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall”
Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash: “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”
Leslie Bricusse: “When I Look In Your Eyes”
Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe: “Before I Gaze at You Again”
Diane Scanlon and Eve Nelson: “I Know You By Heart”
Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields: “Remind Me”
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens: “Nothing to Lose (but Your Heart)”
Billy Goldenberg and Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee: “Actor”
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens: “I Was Here”
Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg: “Over the Rainbow”
You don’t often find Shostakovich mentioned in a typical cabaret act, but Maureen O’Flynn isn’t your typical cabaret singer, and the reference appears in “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall,” made popular by Judy Garland. O’Flynn, whose career has encompassed roles at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden and many others, included the track in an impressive arc of songs – both familiar and not – for her stylish turn at Feinstein’s. Her lustrous soprano is bountiful, given the intimate space – at times I wondered whether she even needed a microphone – yet she deployed it with agility and taste, transforming the club into her own warm, generous living room.
The swiftly moving show, directed by Eric Michael Gillett and produced by Sanford Fisher, never seemed like “an opera star trying to be something else.” Despite her love of roles such as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, here she seemed perfectly comfortable inhabiting a different kind of mantle. Loss was never far from her sensibility, and Leslie Bricusse’s “When I look in Your Eyes” became a gentle tribute to a beloved dog named Coltry, Even more moving was “I Know You By Heart” (by Diane Scanlon and Eve Nelson), dedicated to a brother who left the world too soon.
Her top power showed its fire in Sondheim’s “Make the Most of Your Music” (cut from Follies), Kurt Weill’s “I’m A Stranger Here Myself” (from One Touch of Venus), and an intriguing arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” in which she melismatically stretched the melodic line almost to the breaking point. But some of the evening’s most gratifying moments were those when she effortlessly descended into a lower register, such as the winding line of “At the Crossroads” (also by Bricusse). And adding discreet yet lively accompaniment were four excellent musicians: Jim Hershman (guitar), Danny Mallon (percussion), Dick Sarpolla (bass) and on piano, music director Don Rebic.
As an encore, the singer offered a soaring “Chance to Sing,” with its irresistible melody by Billy Goldenberg. O’Flynn is clearly developing a devoted following for this slice of her career, judging from the appreciative cheers and applause – not that the presence of a few celebrity fans doesn’t hurt. Earlier in the evening she acknowledged another renowned singer in the audience – and one familiar to many New Yorkers – Stephanie Blythe.