Stacie Koby

March 23, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

Stacie KobyIn “Committed,” her new show at The Duplex, Stacie Koby ignores the old show-business warning about the dangers of being upstaged when working with animals or children. There are no critters in the act, but Koby is visibly pregnant with her second child, scheduled to arrive several weeks from now. Maybe she figured that because she naturally faces the audience during the show, the kid would be safely downstage for the duration of the set.

The title “Committed” seems to have a double meaning in the context of this autobiographical show. On one hand, it describes Koby’s personal adjustment over the last few years, as she’s committed to the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. But the title also alludes to her alleged “craziness”—and the notion that she needs to be committed to an institution. She opens the show with Rob Thomas’s rousing “I’m Not Crazy,” and much of the musical material that follows concerns her struggles to stay sane as her life grows increasingly complicated and harried.

Any certifiable craziness here, however, seems to be of a fairly mild strain. Koby does describe having once been prescribed Prozac, but her touted mental imbalance is likely exaggerated comic shtick. She presents herself as an adorably neurotic, self-obsessed character, striving—in her words—to get her “shit together.” She comes off as someone who, in decades past, might have been called a “kook.” Think of Barbara Harris or, more recently, Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth’s zany chirpiness seems, in fact, to serve as the model for Koby’s onstage persona. Koby may not have Chenoweth’s musical versatility, but when she occasionally scales back her comedic approach, she demonstrates a pleasant singing voice—one with surprising volume and expressiveness.

Koby shows remarkable poise onstage. And the show (directed by Lisa Moss) is polished to a fine sheen and moves along at a brisk pace. The singer’s energy never flags, though she does step offstage for a short respite (cited as a pee break), during which her pianist and musical director, William Demaniow, performs a comic number about an unprepossessing baby. (Demaniow’s fellow musician, drummer Tim Lykins, adds his talents to the musical mix throughout the evening.)

Sometimes Koby’s comic depiction of her neuroticism and self-absorption wears thin. In one sequence she details the tribulations she and her husband endured while facing infertility issues. She then describes how, once she was finally pregnant, she was immediately beset by another set of worries, including the basic question of whether she was cut out to be a mother in the first place. While I realize that confirmation of a pregnancy likely changes the equation, I couldn’t help but wonder: Wouldn’t suitability for parenthood be something to consider thoroughly before going in for all those tests and collecting those sperm samples?

Koby does wink at the ludicrousness of her persona’s self-centeredness. She performs one of the show’s only “serious” songs, “Hold My Heart” (Sara Bareilles), in a sequence dealing with her father’s life-threatening heart problems. After telling the audience that Dad underwent successful transplant surgery, she adds a chipper, “OK…back to me!” Later she compares being in the maternity room, watched over by the obstetrical team, to being onstage in front of a rapt audience. This leads to an amusingly raw parody of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” While Koby’s original, childbirth-oriented lyrics are uneven, she scores big for replacing Merrill’s “One roll for the whole shebang” with “I think I tore my shebang.”

The funniest, most outrageous piece of the evening, though, is listed in the songlist as simply “Lullaby.” Arranged by Demaniow and based on a children’s book for parents written by Adam Mansbach, it’s a gently rapped duet for Koby and Demaniow in which hilariously inappropriate epithets are hurled at a sleepless infant.

Unfortunately, many of the other songs in the program are unremarkable contemporary pop songs. Koby even sings the ubiquitous 2013 hit “Let It Go” (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez) from the film Frozen, a gambit that—at the performance I saw—elicited spontaneous laughter for a reason that eluded me. (Perhaps the song is already such a stale chestnut that it’s become a joke?) One of the numbers that does work well is “When I Sing in My Car” (Liz Suggs, Joey Contreras), about an unassuming young woman who becomes a pop star in her own mind when seated behind her dashboard. The song has clever lyrics, and it offers Koby a chance to belt out some funky and impressive riffs.

I hope that, next time around, Koby will take a chance and do something completely unexpected—something that lets her peek out at the world beyond the boundaries of her own life experience. And, while I wouldn’t necessarily prescribe a steady diet of Berlin, Gershwin, and Arlen, I would like to see how she might apply her considerable talents to a few classics with legs longer than “Let It Go.”

“Committed”
The Duplex  –  March 20, 28, April 9

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. In addition to reviewing for BistroAwards.com, he contributes regularly to theaterscene.net and clydefitchreport.com. Other reviews and articles have appeared in American Theatre and Back Stage. As a dramaturg, he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

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