Shaynee Rainbolt and Donn Trenner

September 27, 2012

“Two for the Road”

Metropolitan Room  –  September 7, 14, 21, 28

Singer Shaynee Rainbolt has teamed up with musical director, conductor, and pianist Donn Trenner for a month of Fridays at the Metropolitan Room. Trenner has had quite an illustrious career, having worked with some of the biggest names in music and show business, among them Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Ann‑Margret, Lena Horne, Anita O’Day, José Feliciano, and Steve Allen. Originally from California, for the past several years Rainbolt has been performing fairly steadily in New York venues and internationally, garnering MAC and Bistro Awards along the way. Having seen her perform many times over the years, I can say that in this engagement she is doing her best, her most mature work to date.

Mind you, I thought she was good when I first heard her seven years ago, but now everything has fallen into place: she brings to each song a combination of solid musicianship and equally strong lyric detail, with nary a misstep or infelicitous choice; what’s more, her voice has deepened into a beautiful burnished gold. I don’t know whether this growth stems from her collaboration with Trenner or is simply the latest stage in her ongoing artistic development. Some of each I should think. But whatever the source, it’s pretty wonderful to see.

“Midnight Sun” (Sonny Burke, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Mercer) is a perfect example of Rainbolt’s artistry: her singing is exquisite and the meaning of the lyric comes through with greater clarity than in any other rendition I’ve heard. A pairing of Lennon and McCartney’s “Yesterday” and Kern and Harbach’s “Yesterdays” is gorgeous—musically, vocally, and emotionally; the sadness is palpable yet understated. On Redd Evans and Dave Mann’s “No Moon At All,” her vocal riffing is intrinsic to the lyric interpretation, not merely a jazz device. Further, she injects an ever-so-slight pause between two clauses that everyone else strings together, which brings out the romance behind the hipness. And when she sings “I’m So Lucky to Be Me” (Bernstein, Comden & Green), it is clear that she means it.

Beginning with a beautiful piano solo, a pairing of two songs from Umbrellas of Cherbourg—”I Will Wait For You” and “Watch What Happens” (Michel Legrand, original lyrics by Jacques Demy, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel)—is merely marvelous. With these songs, as throughout the evening, Trenner shows that he’s not only an exceptional pianist and endlessly imaginative piano arranger, he’s also an excellent accompanist. Whether his accompaniment is impressionistic, or a rapid run of chords, or any point in between, despite his virtuosity he never shows off and always supports the singer and the interpretation.

Trenner also wrote two of the selections in the program. “In the Glow of You” (lyric by Margot Jackson) is lushly romantic; it was written in 2009, but it’s hard to believe it hasn’t always been with us. “Memory of the Rain,” which he wrote with his late wife, singer Helen Carr, is another fine song, and Rainbolt’s rendition is simple and lovely.

And so it goes from number to number. Rainbolt delivers a perfect reading of Hal Hopper and Tom Adair’s “There’s No You,” one of the best renditions of the Cole Porter classic “Down in the Depths (On the Ninetieth Floor)” I’ve ever heard, and an uncommonly fine “Two for the Road” (Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse).

Arguably her patter, about such subjects as how she and Trenner came to work together and the meaning of the Porter lyric pet pailletted, sometimes threatens to run on too long or become too insular, but (a) it never crosses over that border, and (b) she’s such a natural, unaffected charmer that I wouldn’t want to stifle her enthusiasm and her joyous spirit—they’re infectious.



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.