shift the focus away from a beloved song's gangly teenage drive, like taking "West
Side Story's" iconic "Something's Coming" and singing it rubato,
is almost unheard of. Putting the emphasis on this song's seldom attended to lyrics
is a coup in and of itself, and at this
Anne is a wonder in and of herself. An advanced student, she made her way into Juilliard at the age of 16, later found herself on Broadway, and in the international cabaret world. Anne has an unusually distinct, honest, folk-tinged timbre to her vocal instrument, which she plays unassumingly and with an authenticity that is all her own. Add to this an ethereal, glowing presence wrapped around a tall, goddess-on-earth physical package, and voila! A radiant star is born, ours for the price of admission.
did I mention the girl has brains? Anne Kerry Ford has consistently brought out
the most sophisticated shows featuring our greatest songwriters, most notably
those in the American Songbook, and the likes of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht,
to mention a few. She
Combining both the composers' personal lives and America's showtune history, Anne led us to her next revelation, the comedic "I'm One of God's Children". This was Anne in rare form, with her Betty Boop ditziness meeting her Shirley Temple forthrightness. "I'm one of God's children who hasn't got wings", she opines, and she really gives it every bit of gusto she's got! With pursed lips and comedic poses (arms down at her sides, hands out, for example), Anne "shivers" to set up a phrase. Cute, funny and original, Anne's vaudevillian take on this ditty from "Showboat", the first musical that integrated storyline with music, is classic and pure gold.
Leaning on the piano, Anne illuminated "Bill", and she affably conveyed her regard for this title character. Expressive, dropdead sincere, real and throwing it all away, every line, she innocently wins the day. Well done, Anne. More patter followed about our two heroes, and the miracle of their first meeting being nothing short of biblical in proportions. The power of their link up was so strong, that if Oscar had been a geologist, maybe Stephen would have become one, too. So much fascinating history, you wonder how Anne made it all fit into one show so economically.
Anne gave us "Broadway Baby" from Sondheim's "Follies" to show the obvious connection, and her stylized flapper-era trill was thrilling, sprawling her arms out in a big finale. At this point Anne chose to unfold some particularly interesting tidbits from their two work histories. Songwise, her choice was a personal favorite of mine, "The Folks Who Live On the Hill", by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Anne sang this love story ballad seated on a stool, yet ladylike. Reclining at times with her hand in back of her, punching it up with the occasional standing up, or a deep breath and a smile. It's the little things that matter most, sometimes.
Me a Little" was given an original spin by Anne on this night,
A high point of the night had to be Miss Ford's rendition of the ultimate ingenue's delight, "Mr. Snow", from "Carousel", by Rodgers and Hammerstein. With a slight vocal affectation, Anne conveyed true joy and elation at the prospect of marrying this fishy conquest! She had so many unique moments special to only her repertoire of tics and inclinations, summing up a very sweet and affectionate love letter to "Mr. Snow". Anne's "Vodka" is very entertaining, as she practically gets you drunk yourself just watching this Hammerstein and Harbach concoction.
The last chunk of the show starting with a choice from "A Little Night Music" was filled with illuminating insights and anecdotes about our two composers. Most fascinating was the bold fact that these two didn't exactly have it easy, writing only hits and having their day in the sun. Oscar went through an 11-year dry spell after "Showboat", before he met Richard Rodgers. Sondheim's "Anyone Can Whistle" closed after 9 performances! "Merrily We Roll Along" closed after 13 performances. So we learn that even the greats have their setbacks. Anne's "Move On" is well-placed here, asking us plainly to accept what is, noble and well-intentioned, unadorned and truthful. Anne's eyes tell so much, so inclusive to her audience and generous spirited.
Anne Kerry Ford said it so well in her final moments onstage, which I can only paraphrase here. "The craft and genius of these songs is so insightful to the human heart, and what it means to be a human being on the planet. I know that what they've written is true." Anne dove right into Sondheim's "Being Alive", taking the verse rubato, like her opener, finding the song before our eyes. It's like I never heard the line, "Somebody crowd me with love" before. Standing with her arms behind her, tender and true, she gently emitted the final "Being Alive", and it was very Anne Kerry Ford, folks. You heard umpteen "Brava's" and thunderous applause before the encore.
course, what else could it be but "Something Wonderful" from "The
King and I", such a delicate understanding of a troublesome lover. Anne demonstrated
extraordinary vocal placement on this tune, which is rangy and difficult like
its subject. She gave us fortunates another entry with "Anyone Can Whistle's"
"With So Little To Be Sure Of". Her thanks were genuine, and her "It
was marvelous to know you" was just a stupendous statement. Needless, to
say, I am an "Anne fan", and this show is an example of how good cabaret
can get when its done with love and care and style and conviction and a lot of
hard work. Repeatedly.