Liz Lark Brown

October 8, 2010


Metropolitan Room   –   September 17, 18, 19, 22, 23

As her prize for winning the 2009 MetroStar Talent Challenge, Liz Lark Brown was awarded a fully produced week-long engagement at the Metropolitan Room. The show she devised recently completed its run, and though it arrived on the scene a bit later than one might have expected, it was worth waiting for. Directed by Lennie Watts, and with musical direction by Nate Buccieri, it was not so much a collection of songs interspersed with patter—though it was that; rather, it was a kaleidoscope of colors, moods, and feelings. Sure, some other shows have this quality, but very few do to this extent, for they have not been guided by the fertile and antic mind of Liz Lark Brown.

A prevailing energy and freewheeling spirit gave the enterprise a celebratory atmosphere, and everyone who shared the stage with Brown joined in with infectious enthusiasm. The celebrants were: Buccieri, who more often than not provided piano accompaniment and frequently supplied back-up vocals (and was that a clarinet he played at one point?); Joe Iconis, who took over at the piano occasionally and otherwise could be found on keyboard, accordion, and/or back-up vocals, and on one number shared the 88 keys with Buccieri; Sean Harkness on guitar; Matt Wigton on bass; and Heidi Weyhmueller on back-up vocals. All of them were ace, as were the arrangements. And not incidentally, Brown has a swell set of pipes.

The evening was not slick; on the contrary, it had a bit of a rough edge, the sense that there’s a creative spirit at work here, and the ride might get a bit bumpy. Consistent with the breadth of Brown’s imagination, the program contained about as eclectic a mix of musical selections as you’ll find, including songs from Broadway musicals of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (and not the obvious ones), animated film musicals, pop songs from several decades, and original songs by Joe Iconis.

Brown is a very funny lady, and, so, the evening contained a fair amount of merriment and quirky humor, starting with the opening number, based on “Buenos Aires” (Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice, from Evita), in which she lampooned the allegation that perhaps her MetroStar victory had not been a clean one (hence the show’s title, “Tarnished”). After patter about inappropriate behavior when on a date, she performed “I Know Your Kind” (Harold Rome, from Destry Rides Again) while carrying on wildly inappropriately on top of the piano—quite possibly the funniest, and certainly the most outrageous piano top bit I’ve ever seen; actually, it was over the top, and it was wonderful. Her performance of “I’ll Show Him” (Albert Hague and Arnold Horwitt, from Plain and Fancy) was playful and ebullient, and her interpretation of a pairing of “Every Breath You Take” (Sting) and “I Think I Love You” (Tony Romeo) was both insane and inspired.

As she demonstrated during last year’s competition, she’s a master at switching between the comical and the sober. After a send-up of celebrities on the order of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and a pairing of Tori Amos’s “Leather” and Madonna and Patrick Leonard’s “Hanky Panky”, performed as a duet with Weyhmueller as Britney Spears, Brown sang Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock’s “Popular Opinion,” which casts a disapproving eye at what captures the public’s attention on TV. She regaled us with hilarious brush-offs that beaus have actually foisted on her [one still makes me chuckle], then delivered Iconis’s “Sympathy for the Killer,” which expresses willingness to put up with a destructive lover.

There were other more serious numbers, among them Iconis’s “Almost There,” a rock song with the same message as “Back to Before” from Ragtime; a pairing of Ani DiFranco’s “Untouchable Face” and “All I Could Do Was Cry” (Bill Davis, Gwen Fuqua, Berry Gordy Jr.), about being in love with someone who has an attachment to someone else; and Kyrie (Richard Page, Steve George, John Lang). All were given strong performances and robust accompaniment.

But the evening’s crowning glory was a five-song segment: “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” (Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston, from Cinderella), “Shakespeare Lied” (Elmer Bernstein, Carolyn Leigh, from How Now, Dow Jones) “This Woman’s Work” (Kate Bush), “Break Even” (Andrew Frampton, Steve Kipner, Daniel O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan) “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” (John Mayer). Though technically a medley, it was more than that: it was a penetrating exploration of loss. A moving, powerful piece of work.



About the Author

Roy Sander has been covering cabaret and theatre for over thirty years. He’s written cabaret and theatre reviews, features, and commentary for seven print publications, most notably Back Stage, and for CitySearch on the Internet. He covered cabaret monthly on “New York Theatre Review” on PBS TV, and cabaret and theatre weekly on WLIM-FM radio. He was twice a guest instructor at the London School of Musical Theatre. A critic for, he is also the site’s Reviews Editor; in addition, he is Chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC.