Audrey Appleby

November 16, 2017 | By | Add a Comment

In Ladies Cheap Cocktails, her show at Pangea, Audrey Appleby offers an appealingly personal portrait of love and romance in a program of original music and lyrics, mostly written by her, with occasional assists from others. It may often be difficult to discern which of her fourteen songs derive from her own experience, which are merely musings about the concept of romance, and which are based on her keen observations of others in love—or, let’s face it, lust. But it hardly matters, as this set is all of a piece in a way that so few sets are. Appleby is a Romantic with a capital “R,” and her melodies, while nicely varied, do all seem to somehow evoke France, Italy, Spain, the Caribbean, or Latin America. She sings some lyrics in Spanish, Italian, and French. She often sways like a Brazilian about to break into a bossa nova, and the whole show wafts over the audience like a West Indian breeze.

Appleby started her musings at the age of three, in Miami, on the beach with her grandparents, responding positively to the admiration of passing strangers. “Miami Mosaic” (music by the Uruguay-born guitarist Beledo, words by Appleby) celebrates this infant awareness, while her “Voyeur d’Amour,” inspired by her first trip to Paris, as a teenager, celebrates a learning and wondering experience. “Spanish Affair” (Beledo, Appleby) may be based on reality, but it’s certain that Appleby had—and may still have–a “Paris Heart, Rio Soul” (music by Beledo).

Two songs in her set could easily stand alone or slip into someone else’s show with ease. “Picasso Woman” (music by Shelley Markham) could be about any woman whose facial and other bodily features may be seen as attractively out of kilter as those in the artist’s female portraits. And Appleby, who, after all her real and imagined affairs, married a man with interests and travels clearly divergent from hers, deliciously turns the old “absence turns the heart grow fonder” and “opposites attract” clichés into  a tellingly original “When You’re Away.” The title of her show comes from a sign she saw in a souk in Morocco, “Ladies Cheap Cocktails All Night Long.” The phrase inspired her show’s title song, and while at first it seems sexist, it turns out to have provided yet another opportunity for Appleby to examine the human condition, and that’s a good thing.

Besides the fine hand of director Lina Koutrakos guiding the show, Appleby had—and acknowledges—a great deal of other help, starting with musical director and pianist Daryl Kojak, who heads her superlative five-piece backup band: Sean Harkness on guitar, Sean Conly on bass, Steven Frieder on saxophone and flute, and Diego Voglino on drums. Welcome as they all are, collectively the combo presents the only real problem with this show in that they take up so much room in the tiny Pangea performing space, that Appleby’s physical movements are sometimes restrained. She is, after all, an avid dancer: “If you want me, ask me to dance,” she says. Her eleven o’clock number is “Bailo (Dancing Again),” and leaving the stage while singing it provides Appleby’s only shot at full movement. Heretofore she’s been limited to “dancing” with her arms and shoulders, and that’s a pity. Yes, I do recognize the irony: more often we critics complain about performers who do way too much windmilling about.

Ladies Cheap Cocktails
Pangea  –  November 3, December 1

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Robert Windeler is the author of 17 books, including biographies of Mary Pickford, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and Burt Lancaster. As a West Coast correspondent for The New York Times and Time magazine, he covered movies, television and music, and he was an arts and entertainment critic for National Public Radio. He has contributed to a variety of other publications, including TV Guide, Architectural Digest, The Sondheim Review, and People, for which he wrote 35 cover stories. He is a graduate of Duke University in English literature and holds a masters in journalism from Columbia, where he studied critical writing with Judith Crist. He has been a theatre critic for Back Stage since 1999, writes reviews for, and is a member of The Players and the American Theatre Critics Association.

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