Reviews and Commentary by Stephen Hanks
Stephen Hawking and his fellow physicists may not have yet figured out the formula for traveling through the time-space continuum, but apparently the Metropolitan Room discovered the secret. Last Friday night (October 26), I walked through the curtain into the main performance space and entered a time tunnel that took me from the 21st century into the 1960s and '70s. Two lovely, rising young stars of cabaret, Lauren Fox and Jennifer Sheehan (photo above), had obviously hurtled though that same time warp because in two separate shows on the same evening, they performed songs that had been written and recorded 15 to 25 years before they were born. In the process they transported this particular Baby Boomer joyously back to his youth and to the days of cultural upheaval, generation gaps, peace, love, war, and some of the best pop/rock music ever written.
It makes a heart sing to see and hear women in their mid-20s (like Sheehan) and mid-30s (like Fox) contributing to the creation of the Great American Pop/Rock Songbook. (The feeling is something akin to what members of the International Al Jolson Society must experience when someone in his mid-50s—ME—shows up at a yearly Jolson festival and actually brings down the average age of the room.) There's no doubt that their Boomer parents contributed to the affinity Sheehan and Fox have for classic '60s/'70s pop and rock n' roll, and as they both proved throughout that time warped Friday night, they deliver the songs with a polish, poise, and passion that make those wonderful old songs new again.
The journey into the musical past began with Sheehan's show I Know a Place: Spend a Night in the Sensational '60s. While the theme of Fox's show was tightly structured around the poetic and drug-fueled folk rock that came out of California in the mid-'60s to early '70s, Sheehan painted her set with a much broader and light-hearted early-to-mid-'60s brush, including everything from Burt Bacharach and Hal David to Simon and Garfunkel, from Blossom Dearie to The Beatles, from The Supremes to Streisand, from Johnny Mercer to Joni Mitchell. For the most part it worked, although Sheehan fudged her theme a bit by eschewing some really memorable rock 'n roll of the decade (no '60s Elvis, Dusty Springfield or Lulu?) to squeeze in musical theater numbers and theme songs from films of the period, some of which weren't as effectively delivered as the pop/rock tunes.
Wearing a stylishly '60s white/silver cocktail dress that was sleeveless and backless—but unfortunately longer than the mini-skirts Goldie Hawn wore in the late '60s wacky TV comedy/variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In—the brunette beauty effectively opened with the 1965 Petula Clark hit "I Know a Place," boogaloo-ing like a Hullabaloo girl during the breaks. Sheehan then displayed her solid alto to mezzo soprano range during a Bacharach/David medley, including the Carpenters' "Close to You" and "This Guy's In Love With You," the big Herb Alpert hit in 1968. At this point it was clear that Sheehan and her fine Musical Director James Followell had decided, for the most part, to go with fairly conventional arrangements, although they did have some fun early with "The Boy From . . . " the Mary Rodgers/Stephen Songheim parody of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes hit "The Girl from Ipanema." (Linda Lavin sang it in the 1966 Off-Broadway revue The Mad Show.) Sheehan went from adorably cute on "The Boy From . . . " to accessibly sexy on another Jobim/Moraes song "No More Blues (Chega de Sadade)." When Sheehan started her bossa nova sway, she and the number were a dead-ringer for Jessica Pare's "Zou Bisou Bisou" star turn in an early 2012 episode of the TV hit Mad Men. (Please click on Page 2 below to continue.)