Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Songbird, the new musical by Michael Kimmel (book) and Lauren Pritchard (music and lyrics), directed by JV Mercanti, brings The Seagull to Nashville in the 21st century. The book is effective and the songs soar.

Erin Dilly, Kate Baldwin
Photo: Jenny Anderson Photography
There's just one problem: they don't add up to a musical. The entire score is diegetic, which doesn't have to be a negative, but in this case it is. Unlike Dreamgirls, where the diegetic songs act almost as character songs by matching the mood and situation of each person, Songbird metes its music out almost at random. There are few songs that could be sung only by that character at that moment. The result is a country version of The Seagull featuring people who happen to sing a lot. The whole becomes less than the sum of its parts.

But the parts are good enough that Songbird is still worth seeing, particularly with its excellent cast. Kate Baldwin, fine as the endlessly bitchy mother who cannot relinquish even one watt of the spotlight, sounds the best I've ever heard her. Considering that she is always wonderful, that is saying something. Baldwin nails the country sound, and I would gladly listen to her sing all night. Erin Dilly is also at her impressive best. Adam Cochran is heart-breaking as the son who would die for his mother's attention. Kacie Sheik nicely shows the cost of compromise as the Masha equivalent Missy. Bob Stillman is excellent as the diva's brother, trying to bring peace to the family, and it's fun to see him cast against type. The rest of the cast also shines: Ephie Aardema, Don Guillory, Drew McVety, Eric William Morris, and Andy Taylor.

The more I think about it, the more I would prefer to see an evening just of Lauren Pritchard's work, sung by those terrific singers. The Seagull plot kinda got in the way.

Wendy Caster
(8th row, press ticket)

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