REVIEW: Donna McKechnie and Danielle Hope
I guess it says something when the patter in a cabaret act is more interesting than the singing, but that's sadly the case on two new cabaret CDs by both a musical theater legend and an up and coming young Brit performer.
Donna McKechnie's Same Place: Another Time, recorded live in London, recreates the show that McKechnie performed earlier in the year at 54 Below. McKechnie, of course, has had an impressive stage career and is best known for her Tony Award-winning role as Cassie in the original production of A Chorus Line as well as other Michael Bennett shows including Promises, Promises and Company. But even to her fans, McKechnie was typically better known for her spectacular dancing than for her singing which was more adequate than stunning. Now in her 70s, McKechnie's voice shows its age, often lacking control in its upper registers. It doesn't help that McKechnie has picked a vocally rangy set of songs for her CD including Sondheim's "What More Do I Need?" and "At the Ballet" (from A Chorus Line); all push at the limits of her voice and the results aren't always pretty.
McKechnie has a winning personality and her show is peppered with fun backstage stories about the shows she was in and how she made her way as an actress in New York. The tales are extremely charming and you get a real sense of McKechnie as a person. This says a lot as the set list of songs for the show are rather sui generis and with few exceptions lack connection to McKechnie's career. The 70s disco hit "Hustle" is there plusIrving Berlin tunes from Easter Parade and Annie Get Your Gun. Even a song from The Poseidon Adventure gets thrown in. McKechnie doesn't seem to exhibit much affinity for these songs, leaving me wishing for the end of each song just so I could hear her next juicy story. I'm happy for McKechnie that she got to put this show together, but for her fans, better dig up her original cast albums and listen to her glory days there.
At least with McKechnie, there is real stage presence and proven talent on exhibit. The same can't really be said of Danielle Hope and her show called Bring the Future Faster. This young Brit was the winner of an Andrew Lloyd Webber BBC reality show Over the Rainbow that catapulted her into fame and led to her starring in a production of The Wizard of Oz. The show didn't air here so I didn't see her competition, but it must have been rather weak as Hope is a rather green performer. Her youthful energy can't really mask her lack of experience and a voice that shifts awkwardly between head and chest in ways that are completely frustrating. Hope's CD, recorded live at 54 Below, is a strange amalgam of songs: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is there, but so is "Mambo Italiano" and a rather underwhelming version of Rodgers' and Hart's " Manhattan." There's also an endless Disney medley (it's over 12 minutes long) because Hope claims she's the biggest Disney fan. The album isn't helped by musical director Steven Jamail's string-heavy arrangements for piano, guitar, and cello (but no drums), especially on tracks like the title number which really need some driving percussion.
Ms. Hope tells her audience, which seems to be filled with her British compatriots and friends, that performing on an American stage was one of a number of life goals she wanted to achieve in the last five years. Good for her for achieving that accomplishment, but I think she might fare better in London where her talents will be better appreciated.
IanGUK wrote on July 4, 2015
I agree almost entirely on both reviews, but I'm not sure what "I think she might fare better in London where her talents will be better appreciated" means ?
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A Chorus Line - 1975 Original Broadway Cast Company - 1970 Original Broadway Cast Promises, Promises - 1968 Original Broadway Cast The Wizard Of Oz - 2011 London Cast Bring the Future Faster: Live at 54 BELOW - 2014 Danielle Hope Same Place: Another Time - 2013 Donna McKechnie Annie Get Your Gun Irving Berlin Donna McKechnie Michael Bennett Steven Jamail Danielle Hope At the Ballet (13) What More Do I Need? (11) Over the Rainbow (99) Manhattan (18) Toggle Additional (13)