BECCA KIDWELL “Together Inside”: A Review

The name of Becca Kidwell’s provocative one-woman show is Together Inside.  Just what does that mean?  The audience does indeed find out, about halfway through the show’s hour-long running time.  Kidwell opens with Good Friend and a Glass of Wine, a song first made famous by LeAnn Rimes.  With lyrics like: “A good friend and a glass of wine, Someone to say it’s gonna be alright;  A good friend and a glass of wine, A little pick me up to get me through the night!”, this selection deserves to be initiated into the Sisterhood of the Traveling Showtunes.  The song was also a delightful way to get her audience at New York City’s Don’t Tell Mama… shall we say, “in the mood”!  Next up was Inside, a hauntingly beautiful song by Kidwell’s friend Meg Flather which Flather wrote from her experience during New York City’s shelter in place order.  In this well-chosen track, the audience detects an earnest vulnerability in Kidwell’s voice and stage presence– which, of course, suit the lyrics perfectly. It may sound cliched, but Becca Kidwell truly makes the song her own as she sings about “a snow day without snow” and asks, “What day is it? Tuesday?…”.  She almost dares you not to get teary-eyed.  Many artists like to create that aforementioned vibe of “earnest vulnerability” in their persona… and in the beginning of Together Inside, we wonder at first just how much of her true self Kidwell is sharing with her audience.  But one thing we clearly DON’T wonder about is the singer’s talent.  Kidwell’s delivery is smooth and flawless. She also has an impressive range, as evidenced during such delectable moments as when she gives her take on the pop classic You’ve Got a Friend.  Early on in her show, this artist proudly declares herself to be an introvert– but it’s clear that she can more than handle a cabaret stage.  Alone Together, an oft-redone jazz classic by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, becomes a dynamically performed musical metaphor for the pandemic even though it was written in 1932.  Are we starting to detect a theme here? More about that later… 

Kidwell can seemingly handle any of our faves from The Great American Songbook with ease, and can also put a new spin on classics like With a Little Help From My Friends (Dare I say that I liked this jazzy version better than the original?!).  However, this cabaret cookie has also chosen some crowd-pleasers which are begging to be heard again.  These include the self-explanatorily named I’ve Got Those Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues.  Kidwell sings it very well, giving the audience as much idiosyncratic joy as the title implies.  She also turns the modern gem Where Are The Grown Ups? by Shaina Taub into a mini musical epic.  The catchy, politically-flavored song was an audience pleaser… and its theme is more relevant than ever in 2022.  Speaking of 2022, Kidwell takes the eternally inspiring Charlie Chaplin jewel Smile and makes it an achingly poignant statement about the surface-level images we project on social media and on those darn dating/friendship apps.

But back to the show’s “theme”: It is safe to say that the phenomenon known as COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown likely inspired hundreds thousands of artistic endeavors, whether it be visual art, music, theater, and/or film. I don’t think that many of those artists, however, could create a show as deeply personal yet as firmly entertaining as Becca Kidwell has done with Together Inside, as evidenced by her choice of songs and her heart-on-her-sleeve delivery of those songs. The theme of Kidwell’s show is epitomized by Together Inside’s titular number, which Becca wrote herself.  As mentioned before, Together Inside the show is deeply personal, and one of the things we learn about Becca is that the stage is her “place of comfort and safety”. Her affinity for performing and her appreciation for her own cabaret community shines in numbers like Without a Song and with her friend Tracy Stark’s Woman on The Stage. This piece had a mood which was distinctly unique from much of the rest of the show: Seduction never sounded so hauntingly alluring since The Carpenters’ Superstar. But make no mistake: This Award-winning artist is not “apologizing” for being an introvert!   At one point she joked about one of the reasons she loves cabaret: “There’s nothing I like better than hanging out with a bunch of my friends in the dark!” ‎Becca Kidwell’s story was also an important lesson to everyone who needed to realize that the eventual “reopening” of the world, thanks to the advent of the vaccines, was not exactly a triumphant or even an easy thing for many, many people.  For this reviewer, that revelation was indeed an eye-opener.‎ Kidwell’s penultimate number of Together Inside was Johnny Mercer’s/Hoagy Carmichael’s In The Cool, Cool, Cool of The Evening.  A decadent delight, the song was a the musical equivalent of an all-you-can-eat dessert table, sung with gusto by the leading lady of the afternoon.  One thing is for sure: When Becca Kidwell comes back for an encore, I’m going to borrow a lyric from that number: “Well you can tell ’em WE’LL BE THERE!”

Becca Kidwell’s Together Inside is Directed by Jeff Harnar and features Musical Direction and Piano by Matt Baker.  The show continues on Friday, June 10, 2022 at 7PM at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W 46th Street, NYC.  Visit here for reservations.

Photos by Matt Baker Photography.

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