Peggy Eason’s latest show, “I’ll Show Them All,” was all about defiance and overcoming, mixed in with an unfettered joy of living. Dressed regally in a shimmering black and silver checkered gown and purple jacket, along with her trademark sunglasses, Eason took to the stage and planted herself firmly in the center and, like a torpedo aiming for its target, directly delivered in her strong alto voice “Black, Blind, and Beautiful” (David Conforte), a song written especially for her. There was no tentativeness or wavering in her self-assurance, which was a pleasing trait, indeed.
The evening consisted of songs that framed biographical sketches of her remarkable life, starting with her survival as a severely underweight twin at the time of her birth. She talked of how a guidance counselor told her she wouldn’t get through college—and yet she managed to earn two master’s degrees. She won a singing contest, climbed a mountain, drove a car, got married, and held down several prominent positions in corporate jobs. That despite the fact that “Employers were so afraid of my disability instead of focusing on my ability.”
Songs such as “Here I Come” (Hewlett Smith) and “I’ll Show Them All” (Steve Allen) further brought the point home. Eason talked of dreams she still wanted to fulfill, such as a Broadway show—and she effectively steamrolled through a medley of a half-dozen uptempo numbers, including “Broadway, Broadway” (Howlett Smith), “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (Sondheim, Styne), and “I Whistle a Happy Tune” (Rodgers & Hammerstein).
Eason tried her hand at comedy with “Vodka” (George Gershwin, Herbert Stothart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach), which proved to be more fun because of her open-hearted spirit rather than as a result of her interpretation. She displayed a healthy sense of humor throughout. “You’re all looking so beautiful tonight,” she said after her opening number. A winning bit later in the show had her telling the audience about the three things that most people want to know about her life as a blind person. One question provided a nice segue to the most moving song of the night, “The Colors of My Life” (Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart).
A couple of points to consider for improving the show: First, many of her life sketches were not fleshed out enough to pull us into the scene emotionally. For example, she told of a former companion who had died of cancer from breathing in 9/11 fumes, and said they were a “team.” However, she gave us no specific detail about him for us to grab hold of, nor any specific memory of their time together. Thus, when she followed with Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s “You and Me Against the World,” the song—though a lovely, quiet moment in the show—wasn’t as poignant as it could have been. Second, even though Eason’s overcoming so many obstacles is admirable and worth cheering, her attitude is all triumphant, full steam ahead, like a majorette leading a parade. Her light would shine truer and brighter if she were willing to show us a few of the shadows.
Her no-nonsense, straightforward style worked wonders on Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”: the diction was flawless, the delivery firm and majestic. And she closed with a lovely rendition of “Through the Eyes of Love” (Marvin Hamlisch, Carole Bayer Sager), the words especially touching coming from this singer.
Musical director was Steven Ray Watkins, and the director was Lennie Watts. Eason is almost there; with more textured patter and more contrasts in mood, she can hit the jackpot.
“I’ll Show Them All”
Don’t Tell Mama – June 9, 15