Sierra Rein

May 6, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

The title of Sierra Rein’s show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre is a deliberately ironic misnomer: Running in Place (directed by James Beaman) actually celebrates—in fine style—her arrival at a long-delayed finish line. Striding onto the stage in a tight-fitting black cocktail dress and high heels, Rein makes it clear she’s totally in command of where she has long wanted to be. Incredibly, this show marks her solo New York cabaret debut. But now, ten years to the month since her move from California to New York, and more than two decades as a touring actress and singer, most notably with the vocal group Marquee Five, Rein’s metaphoric sweatpants and track shoes should go back into the closet for good. As she fiercely and convincingly sings in her opening number, “Right Hand Man” (Karey & Wayne Kirkpatrick), “There’s no problem that’s too big/and tonight this is my gig.”

Indeed it is—admittedly with considerable help from “my kick-ass musicians” (music director Bill Zeffiro on piano, Matt Scharfglass on bass, and Rex Benincasa on drums). Rein offers a carefully chosen baker’s dozen numbers that are every bit as wide-ranging in content and style as her astonishingly supple voice and myriad lyric interpretations. Refreshingly, the songs she has chosen to sing are much less well-known than those we’ve heard in most cabaret acts; even numbers by well-known songwriters are relatively obscure in their creators’ bodies of work. For instance, this show’s title song, Kander & Ebb’s “Running in Place,” from Steel Pier, is hardly even the best-remembered song from that short-lived show. Dietz & Schwartz’s “By Myself” is perhaps the most familiar song in this set, but it is not exactly a staple of cabaret shows, and Rein’s welcome upbeat jazzy interpretation of it is the best I’ve ever heard.

Those of us old enough remember, maybe cringingly, Rosemary Clooney’s Number One hit “Come On-a My House” (Ross Bagdasarian, William Saroyan), but Rein bifurcates it beautifully. She delivers the first half as a slowed-down sultry and overtly sexual come-on that would have made Mae West proud, but finishes the number in the familiar upbeat, 1950s tamer version that makes the song sound like a mere spaghetti dinner invitation. Dave Frishberg’s contribution is a “timely tribute to fake news”: “Blizzard of Lies,” to which Rein cheerfully appends a couple of notorious examples. My favorite of the half-dozen songs I’d never heard before is “Table 3” (Dan Martin, Michael Biello), which neatly showcases Rein’s comedic chops. It details the annoyances a waitress who wants to be something else must endure while working in a restaurant, even as she intermittently eyes her possibilities with the man sitting alone at the title table.

A Sondheim mashup, “Now You Know” (from Merrily We Roll Along) and “Move On” (from Sunday in the Park with George), provides an apt and thoughtful finale to a knowingly crafted and broadly effective show. Zeffiro’s own composition “To Be a Daring Dame,” to which he wrote new lyrics for the occasion, and on which he sings a duet with Rein, is an apropos tribute to a cheery soul who’s persevered with seemingly little bitterness. Long may she wave.

Running in Place
Laurie Beechman Theatre – April 12, 29, May 12

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 BistroAwards.com, and is a member of The Players and the American Theatre Critics Association.

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