BackStage Bistro Bits: Divas and Decadence John Hoglund
Speaking of things that compel, I mean it as the highest praise when I say that newcomer Rebecca Spencer may be the most distracting performer in cabaret. I find it almost impossible to stay in the room with her. Her lilting soprano and subtle shadings, along with amazing musical director Philip Fortenberry’s rhapsodic arrangements, made her two recent shows at Mama Rose’s one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen in a decade. Every crystal-toned note took the listener on an intensely dreamy journey of discovery. While she is a Broadway veteran (she played Lady Beaconsfield and Guinevere in Jekyll and Hyde) and new to intimate rooms, I predict this golden-voiced lady is going to be a household name in a short time.
Celebrating the release of her beautiful new CD, Wide Awake and Dreaming, which I glowingly reviewed on Jan 2, the SRO house, filled with many theatre folks, cheered her on as if she could do no wrong. They were right. And it doesn’t hurt that she bears a resemblance to Nancy LaMott. A lyric soprano with a plaintive pianissimo that can melt to a whisper, Spencer shined singing songs from her album. The symmetry between her and musical director-arranger Fortenberry couldn’t be better. The show was an example of collaboration at its finest. At times, it all resembled a recital of art songs fused with lighthearted musical comedy. She’s warm, with a delightful presence that lights up the room. Like any newcomer to cabaret making the change from the large stage to an intimate venue, Spencer had to adjust to the confines of cabaret. She did so with ease. Her voice is such that, like LaMott, she could sing the phone book in Gregorian chant and it would work. She has wisely nailed the art of delicate phrasing, turning a simple reading of a fusion of “On My Way to You” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman-Legrand) and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Porter) into a masterpiece of passion. Remember the name and do not miss her next show while she’s still affordable.
Cabaret Scenes Magazine Peter Leavey
Of the many extraordinary aspects of Rebecca Spencer's debut cabaret performance, perhaps the most wondrous is that her dazzling showpiece at Mama Rose's, Wide Awake and Dreaming, was indeed her very first on a cabaret stage. Alluring in a black, off-the-shoulder gown, she matched her cover girl looks with talent, making good use of a theater background to infuse her singing with dramatic staging and understanding. She and Philip Fortenberry, her impassioned accompanist and musical director, had more than ample time to polish the arrangements while they cut a CD half a year earlier, but it was more than rehearsals that allowed her to so capture her audience. Spencer has a glorious voice--a soaring, affecting and versatile soprano, equally effective in the lower registers. From opera to Cole Porter, Spencer was in her element. And with tech director Michael Barbieri's imaginative lighting design, the effect was almost magical.
Cabaret Hotline Online Richard Edgcomb and Stephen Hart
Dressed in a stunning black velvet strapless gown with full length gloves, Rebecca Spencer was the epitome of elegance as she took the stage in the Cabaret Room at Odette’s in New Hope one recent Sunday evening. Before a sold out room of friends, acquaintances and those just curious about all the buzz she has generated, Rebecca presented a show to celebrate the release of her debut CD, Wide Awake and Dreaming on LML Music.
Rebecca captured the audience right from the opening notes of the title track. No stranger to the stage, her theatrical background is evident, with appearances including the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde. Nonetheless, Rebecca was able to easily transition to a small intimate space with eloquence. She captured the audience’s emotion with her delicate phrasing, dramatic staging and complete understanding of the material. Billed as a “dreamy collection of songs that pick up the listener and carry you away,” the show ranged from soft wistful ballads to more emotionally charged belting songs.
Rebecca’s voice, that of a legitimate lyric soprano, was always in complete control whether she was singing art songs as with “The Willow Song” or Broadway tunes such as “Where I Want to Be” from the musical Chess. Confident and assured, Rebecca Spencer will be seen on the cabaret stage for years to come. She was able to take a Broadway ballad and make it sound almost operatic as she did with “Moonfall” from The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Most impressive was the combination of “On My Way to You” with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” which was sensitive and moving. While possessing a breathtaking voice, much of her success is due to the glorious accompaniment of Philip Fortenberry. His arrangements for Rebecca are perfect and his piano interpretation is exquisite. I suspect we will be hearing much more in the days and years ahead.
Cabaret Hotline Online Stu Hamstra
Her vocals are glorious and entrancing, and combined with the incredible Philip Fortenberry on piano, this performance is indeed exciting and a delight. This very beautiful performer's chemistry with Mr. Fortenberry is astounding.