Tales From the O'Neill: Stockport to Memphis & Come Fly With Me Highlight the Cabaret & Performance Conference
By Sophia Saifi
The Cabaret & Performance Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center is in full swing. Audiences were treated to performers from both sides of the Atlantic with Stockport to Memphis and Come Fly With Me.
Barb Jungr: Stockport to Memphis
British singer and lyricist Barb Jungr took the audience on a musical journey from her youth in the northwestern English town of Stockport to her imagined entry to the city of Memphis.
Based off Jungr's latest album, the show was a biographical account through songs of her endearing experiences.
Jungr has been acclaimed for her interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan and when working on her latest album decided she wanted to take a short break from the work of her favorite singer/songwriter.
According to Jungr, she wanted to work on an album that was "more based in blues and jazz."
Influenced by growing up in the heyday of northern soul, Jungr brought a distinctively salty edge to her act at the O'Neill.
Accompanied on the piano by Tracy Stark, Jungr's set featured a series of songs that were at once charming and gritty while simultaneously terrifying and tantalizing.
From a rousing version of Joni Mitchell's "River" to "Last Orders: Mersey Square," her own bittersweet ode to youth, Jungr had the audience gasping, sighing and absolutely titillated by her delicious delivery. Perched on a footstool she ripped melodies out of a variety of harmonicas and shared her stories of heartbreak, family and love.
Having performed in places as diverse as Cameroon, Yemen and the Cote D'Ivoire, Jungr said she was "thrilled" to be at the O'Neill and that she would jump, "like a wild animal to food," at any opportunity to return.
She said that of the main reasons for coming was because it was John McDaniel's first season as artistic director.
McDaniel himself is a fan of Jungr's work.
"She is one of a kind," he said. "she is very off the cuff. I really think she is amazing."
Sammy Cahn is perhaps one of the most prolific lyricists, songwriters and musicians of the twentieth century. Over the course of his storied career he has amassed 26 Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award.
This year Cahn and his collaborator Jimmy Van Heusen would be 100 years old. In honor of this centenary, John McDaniels put together a tribute to their music as a show for the cabaret conference.
Four performers who, according to McDaniel, "represent a wide swath of talent," showcased the best of of Cahn and Van Heusen. From the show's namesake, "Come Fly With Me," to tunes from his musical Skyscraper, each song was a delight and full of the richness of America's musical history.
Linda Hart, Jennifer Sheehan, Jeff Harnar and Nicholas King all brought distinctive glints of glamor to the performance.
Cabaret stalwart Jeff Harnar, who said he jumped at the chance to work with McDaniel, also said he was "in awe of the joy he [McDaniel] brings to his work."
Meanwhile acclaimed chanteuse Linda Hart was motivated to join the act because of the song "Until The Real Thing Comes Along." She compared the work of Cahn to "a storehouse of perfection on every different subject matter."
Jennifer Sheehan oozed elegance with her rendition of the whimsical "Time after Time," while Nicholas King brought the house down with his version of "My Kind of Town."
Ted Firth and Tom Hubbard accompanied on the piano and base respectively.
Although produced specifically for cabaret conference, Linda Hart sees Come Fly With Me having a successful future.
"It is a crowd pleaser and you really listen. I think there is something here," she said. "We did it for one night at the O'Neill but I'm going to bet that Come Fly With Me does not fly away, I bet it hovers over New York for a while."
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