Last week Owen and I went to the Vaudeville to see Megan Mullally with her band Supreme Music Program. At the height of WILL AND GRACE mania I bought her second cd and, while struck by her eclectic choice of songs, I found her voice a trifle too... um... individual to listen to a whole album.
My favorite tracks were the solitary theatre one - Brecht & Weil's BARBARA SONG - ones that sounded like they were theatre songs - Randy Newman's LONELY AT THE TOP and Edna St. Vincent Millay's LAMENT set to music - and the pop/country tracks of Bobbie Gentry FANCY and ODE TO BILLIE JOE.
We saw Alan Cumming last year at the Vaudeville in his cabaret turn so it is obviously the auditorium of choice for the actor who wants to be considered a chanteuse. The difference was that Cumming presented a cogent set where he related the songs to an experience in his life, the show feeling like a unified whole. Mullally didn't.
Despite the clamorous reception from the Karen fans in the audience, she seemed to keep her personality on neutral - it was as if she was was deliberately playing it on the down-low to distance herself from her known work. But it was this reticence - or inability - to invest her set with any obvious interpretation that so disappointed. With a setlist compiled from other people's songs, it ultimately felt that she had just put her iPod on shuffle and wrote down the first 22 songs that came up.
What struck me most was that although she attempted to hit the rock chick vibe with covers of P.J. Harvey, Ryan Adams, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and Chuck Berry, the only song that actually seemed suited to her - and that actually gave her room to breathe! - was Stephen Sondheim's I REMEMBER from the television musical "Evening Primrose". Oh and Megan... it wasn't a tv series and the song isn't sung by a showroom mannequin. Do your research.
In introducing the song she said that the band always 86'd any show songs that she tried to infiltrate into the set-list. Megan should put her foot down... as I said, of all the songs she did this was the most natural fit for her voice.Actually the band sounded very good and provided some interesting arrangements of known songs, to be honest more often than not I was listening to them rather than Mullally.
I wish I could have warmed to her more as she did seem to have a charming personality - it just didn't seem to seep into her song choices. There was no flow, the show seemed to start again every time she introduced the next song.
All in all, a bit of a disappointment.