Reviews & Press
On Friday August 15 singer/actress Rebecca Spencer made her Los Angles concert debut with Fair Warning at Upstairs at Vitello's with her long-time collaborator Philip Fortenberry as musical director, also making his LA debut.
As the press release states Spencer's signature has become unique arrangements that fuse both classical and contemporary expressions of the art song, along with the romantic American Songbook, Broadway, film and popular music. She has two CDs. The first Wide Awake and Dreaming won a BackStage Bistro Award for Excellence in Cabaret Recording and the latest Fair Warning provided the title for her LA concert.
Spencer is a vital actress/woman who lives through the music one beat at a time, in the moment, infusing every lyric with deep feeling. Like any good actress, she loves what she does and sprinkles, like magic dust, the fruits of that aura over everyone around her. She is consistently real, no pretense here, as she finely paces her ruminations and copiously shares those pleasant rich memories. She moved from center stage stage left a couple of times during the 85-minute set where there was a divan for her to sit on. It was if she were holding court in her own living room, she was that relaxed, personal, gracious and highly spirited. With a delightful laugh that colors her comments on her association with Marvin Hamlisch or Ragime or Jekyll & Hyde, she possesses a rich soprano that often stretches to the contralto range, and on occasion surprisingly even lower..to, I swear I heard a few bars in the bass range emanating from her. What a classy and joyful performer!
Fortenberry rocked the house with a Rodgers and Hammerstein Medley that included "Sound of Music", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Younger Than Springtime", "If I Loved You", "Honey Bun" and an incredibly dazzling display of artistry with "Oklahoma", "Nothing Like a Dame" flowing magically with near to perfect rhythmic dynamic into "Do Re Mi". His transitions from one song to the next are amazing. He is a true artist...and he and Rebecca Spencer, after a collaboration of many years...belong together.
I don't like to use the word diva, unless it refers to opera, where it originated, or unless I'm exaggerating a performer's excessively strong demeanor, but Rebecca Spencer stands out as a quiet diva, a classy and down.to.earth mother, who is bound to leave her lasting mark on LA just as she has everywhere else. She's remarkably adept in every way, elegantly stunning...a truly unique artist on the cabaret scene. Welcome!~ Don Grigware
Rebecca Spencer’s powerful soprano could have overwhelmed Vitello’s, but she wisely scaled it to the size of the room and the material she was singing. Her unique accompaniment by Musical Director Philip Fortenberry, combined with an imaginative selection of songs and stunning vocal performance, resulted in a joyous musical experience.
The unusual choice for an opener of “Speak Softly, Love” (Rota/Kusik) was delivered in a soft, haunting voice that created a dark mysterious mood, as she emerged from the dark into her light. Echoing that mood, Fortenberry punctuated his accompaniment with touches of Rachmanioff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. This pairing of standards and contemporary songs with classical references continued effectively throughout the show. Fortenberry’s counterpoint melody of Aaron Copeland’s “Simple Gifts” nicely complemented Rebecca’s beautiful take on “The Girl Who Used to Be Me” (Hamlisch/the Bergmans) from Shirley Valentine. Some lighter fare, such as “Eat, Drink and Be Mary” (Keith Thompson) and her closer, “Home Sweet Heaven” (Martin/Gray) from High Spirits, served to add some variety to her repertoire.
The entertaining patter about her association with the songs and her musical theater career provided just the right personal touch to the evening. This was her L.A. solo cabaret debut, and a wonderful start it was.~ Les Traub