Club Review: Tim Connell’s “Dreamin’ Again”
Tim Connell’s latest offering, Dreamin’ Again, featured music director and longtime collaborator James Followell on piano, and was directed by Steven Petrillo. The show was out for a second run at Pangea after having been delayed, just like most things, since March 2020. Connell’s song list was varied and interesting, while still being cohesive and in his wheelhouse. He’s a good example of a performer who shares his personal experience with the audience in the right way, where we enjoyed the chance to get to know him artistically and personally.
Connell has a beautiful tenor voice. You can be a great singer without that—it’s not always a beauty contest—but he has a compelling natural sweetness in his sound. That quality is enhanced by his choices about when he goes gently into a mix or when he occasionally drives full-throttle into his upper range as he did on “How Deep is the Ocean” (Berlin)…all guided by an honest, heartfelt storytelling.
He brought an easy, conversational feel to Billy Joel’s “Summer in Highland Falls,” and his cover of toe-tapping “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” (Jason Mraz, Lauren Christy, Scott Spock, and Graham Edwards) was crisp and specific in the lyrics, with just a little nod to the commercial pop style of the original. “Romancin’ the Blues” (Frank Wildhorn, Jack Murphy) showcased a few rich baritone moments, and Connell’s version of the classic “What’ll I Do” (Berlin) was a peak moment of the evening: so simple, so full of regret. I also really enjoyed his easy take on “I Am What I Am” (Jerry Herman), which in its original context in La Cage Aux Folles and in many fabulous divas’ versions, is a huge, joyful, defiant anthem. Connell shrugged with confidence and seemed to say “take it or leave it”—yet Followell kept strong forward motion in the arrangement and the end result was full of glowing pride.
The rhythm of the show didn’t quite settle in that night, though. His audience, although good-spirited, was a little distracting. Connell is good with crowd work and improv, but the comments from the audience eventually pushed a little too hard on his professional focus. I thought there was a little more patter than was necessary: the music sounded so grounded and personal in his and Followell’s capable hands, that I didn’t need to have an anecdotal setup for each number—it would have been great to enjoy the momentum of two, or even three full songs run together.
Although I will say, the personal story of a short but sweet relationship coming to an end on an Italian train after a production of West Side Story was a heartbreaker, and when Connell then sang “End of the World” (Matt Alber) with its precarious suspension between falling and flying, many members of his audience were in tears. I admit to nothing. But I will hold off on mascara next time I see him.
Presented at Pangea on November 25, 2021, January 21, and February 5, 2022.
About the Author
From Canada, Penelope Thomas came to NY to study dance with Merce Cunningham; then through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, she wound up back in singing and acting. Credits include lead vocals with FauveMuseum on two albums and live at Symphony Space, singing back-up for Bistro Awards director Shellen Lubin at the Metropolitan Room, reading poet Ann Carson’s work at the Whitney, and touring North America and Europe with Mikel Rouse’s The End of Cinematics. In Toronto, she studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music and cello with the Claude Watson School for the Arts, and in New York she studied music theory with Mark Wade. She's taught in the New School’s Sweat musical theatre intensive and taught dance in public schools and conservatories.