Club Review: Jane & TUCKER: Stripped

October 4, 2021 | By | Add a Comment

Jane Bruce and TUCKER are such charismatic, charming performers that it goes a long way towards forgiveness of the flaws that pepper their new show, Jane & TUCKER: Stripped, at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Bruce, fresh from a Tony Awards performance with Jagged Little Pill, and cabaret veteran TUCKER have good voices, infectious energy, and winning personalities. They were bursting with joy and a bit of angst as they returned to the stage and to performing in front of people. TUCKER is ever free with innocent but naughty obscenities, exclaiming “OMFG” as both acronym and fully worded at the top before singing one note.  It was impossible not to laugh along with him and his co-star.  

Jane Bruce

They co-wrote the opening number, “Explode,” perfectly capturing their excitement and it could not have been more appropriate to the occasion. TUCKER, whom I have seen more than once at The Duplex, and his partner were thrilled at the move uptown. Their next number, “Bein’ Here with You,” reiterated those sentiments in a lively but more personal and emotional way. The two songs worked well together but the endings gave warning to the lack of variation in too many of the songs.  It seems like they never met a hook or a refrain they didn’t need to do over and over and over and over.  

TUCKER departed as Bruce took the stage, guitar in hand, for her self-penned, “Best of Me,” which she announced would be released as a single in a few weeks.  Here and elsewhere in the show, her songs contained some intriguing ideas and a few pleasing melodic phrases, but they all seemed under-written.  There was not a cohesive structure to the music and the weakness of the melody failed to sustain a complete song.  The lyrics suffered from a lack of polish as well and I thought, more than once, something I had never felt in reviewing a cabaret show before—there were not enough words in the lines or in the songs.  The words did not scan well to the music and ended up being awkwardly prose-y; they rarely “sang.” If there were six notes to “fill” in the melodic line, too often she chose to take one syllable and make it six, rather than write more.  She has a lovely voice in the worst of songs and that seemed to be enough for the audience, but I was left wanting. Her guitar playing was adequate but didn’t contribute much to her music. 

TUCKER

Her collaborations with TUCKER fared much better, as in the next number, “BDE,” in which his penchant for naughtiness was given full rein in a funny “dumping” song that climaxed with the entire audience at 54 Below joining in the riotous obscenity on the chorus, “…don’t need your Big D**k Energy.”  He is great on the piano, by turns raucous and sensitive, and his voice, with a particularly strong falsetto, is usually spot on.  Guest vocalist Morgan Reilly gave emotional resonance to a soulful ballad called “Glowing” by TUCKER, Bruce, Courtney Govan, and Tony Ghantous.  She has a terrific sound but she did leave me wondering, as so many singers have, why they think that the affectation of closing one’s eyes adds to the drama or intensity of the piece.  She could sing the same notes with the same passion with her eyes open to strengthen here storytelling.

“Strangers” (Bruce, TUCKER) was the most memorable song of the night as it followed the painful descent from the sparks of intimacy when strangers meet to the moment when familiarity leads to boredom and distance.  Their voices blended beautifully as they wove a story that I had not heard explored in quite that way before.  Then Bruce broughy on her “honey,” Elliah Heifetz, to duet on a love song he wrote for her, “Country Harmony.” It was a declaration of love deeper and stronger than that shared by famed country duos of the past.  The list was inspired, the rhymes delightful, and the comedic element never hid the real romance underneath. 

TUCKER then soloed again on a song he wrote with Ian Honeyman called “The Other Side of the Rainbow,” for the movie Cured, a documentary about the American Psychiatric Association’s declaration that homosexuality would no longer be categorized as a disorder.  It is a gentle anthem to equality and diversity.  He then asked comedian Hannah Pilkes to join him on stage for a funny medley of interstitial themes they had created to be used between scenes on several famous TV shows, including Hannah Montana, Riverdale, The Great British Bake Off, Ted Lasso, and others. 

It was ironic that Bruce then gave her best song, “Stuck,” to another guest star, Ines Nassara, It was a rousing, getting-myself-together song with Bruce and TUCKER providing background vocals. Even this song, though, suffered from a scarcity of lyrics when a verse or two more would have worked much better.  A duet/medley of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and Alanis Morrisette’s “You Learn” was terrific, but I wish that TUCKER had been at the piano to give a spine to Bruce’s guitar accompaniment. 

The duo closed with a hip, funny kiss-off song called “Like Bye” which they wrote with Brianna Nelson.  In this, and in so many other places in the evening, there were such high spirits, contagious fun, and good music, that I wish the entire show could have matched it.  It is worth the time and energy they would have to invest to polish their work together; they could, if they tried, change Jane & Tucker: Stripped from a good show to a great one.

***

Presented at Feinsteins/ 54 Below on September 27.

  

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

Leave a Reply