Corinna Sowers Adler
Somewhat as a sequel to Stories, her New York cabaret debut nearly a decade ago, Corinna Sowers Adler recently offered Second Stories at the Triad Theater. But this stunning, hour-long set proved to be so much more than a mere follow-up to a prior clutch of story songs. This time out, in a wide-ranging selection from mostly late-20th-century songwriters, she examined and illuminated “the lives of ordinary people and their extraordinary stories.” She did this with clear, confident purpose, with admirable vocal range and power, and in a variety of musical styles ranging from country twang to operatic transcendence. Time and again, she proved her contentions that “there is always more to a person than meets the eye,” and “there is always more to learn about them.”
Take the self-deluding housewife of “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Don Schlitz). As Sowers Adler contended, “If you aren’t this woman, you know someone who is.” She injected added poignancy to the woman who heartbreakingly became so much less than her expectation of stardom but pressed on, if minimally, in “Pearl’s a Singer” (Leiber & Stoller, Ralph Dino, John Sembello). Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy” and Fancy’s fierce “rise” from the wrong side of the tracks provided Sowers Adler with the chance to display her excellent acting chops along with her vocals. With that combination she also brought new colors to the cabaret favorite “Meadowlark” (Stephen Schwartz) and the timely, cynical commentary of “One Tin Soldier” (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert). Two soulful ballads that were new to me could not have had a stronger introduction: Adam Gwon’s “I’ll Be Here,” with its thesis “true love never really has a happy ending,” and “Oh, How I Loved You” (Zina Goldrich, Marcy Heisler), about the end of a friendship.
The one slight outlier occurred halfway through the show. No one is ever going to make me like “The Saga of Jenny” (Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, from Lady in the Dark), not even Gertrude Lawrence, herself, on YouTube. But Sowers Adler gave it her all and got everything out of it that was there to give. Best of all, this number gave her the opportunity to prance determinedly back and forth across the Triad stage in her fetching, solidly silver-sequined, calf-clinging boots, which we’d been wondering about since she first appeared (in otherwise standard-issue black). From “Jenny” on out, the Sowers Adler physical high strut was in, along with her varied vocal ones.
Her highly supportive backup staff included her splendid musicians: James Horan, musical director, pianist and arranger; David Rosenthal, guitarist; Christian Fabian, bass player; and Michael Advensky, drummer. Her background vocalists, Nicholas Adler and Mark Szep, added rich substance to two numbers, and Elizabeth Nucci, a student of Sowers Adler’s, nicely sang a duet with her on Meg Flather’s “On the Second Floor.”
Sowers Adler has directed cabaret shows performed by others and appears to have self-directed this one—with some proper distance from her subject. A five-time Tony nominee for Excellence in Theatre Education, she clearly learned all the right lessons, herself, before passing them along.
Triad Theater – June 15
About the Author
Robert Windeler is the author of 18 books, including biographies of Mary Pickford, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and Burt Lancaster. As a West Coast correspondent for The New York Times and Time magazine, he covered movies, television and music, and he was an arts and entertainment critic for National Public Radio. He has contributed to a variety of other publications, including TV Guide, Architectural Digest, The Sondheim Review, and People, for which he wrote 35 cover stories. He is a graduate of Duke University in English literature and holds a masters in journalism from Columbia, where he studied critical writing with Judith Crist. He has been a theatre critic for Back Stage since 1999, writes reviews for BistroAwards.com, and is a member of The Players and the American Theatre Critics Association.