Lucille Carr-Kaffashan

June 19, 2019 | By | Add a Comment

Having created and performed two prior shows that featured the work of female composers, in her recent offering at Don’t Tell Mama, Lucille Carr-Kaffashan focused exclusively on the output of male songwriters. Unlike her 2017 Bistro Award-winning theme show celebrating 21st century women singer-songwriters, this new show, How the Light Gets In, reached back to 1962 and included material from each subsequent decade. The eclectic yet smoothly integrated result was even better than that show of two years back. It also quickly belied Carr-Kaffashan’s initial observation that “men are often taught to supress their emotions.” Not these guys, not with these songs. And certainly not as sung by her, with her supple adaptation to differing styles, moods and genres, as called for, and always with an intensity of understanding, insight, and intelligence. Her use of her compelling and unforced lower register enhanced her appropriation of material written and originally performed by men, while leaving her singular interpretations of lyrics intact.

Opening with John Legend’s “All of Me (Loves All of You),” an upbeat love song if ever there was one, Carr-Kaffashan briefly stayed current with two songs from the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker: “For the First Time” (Rucker, Derek George, Scooter Carusoe) and “So I Sang” (Rucker, Timothy James, Rivers Rutherford). Ah, but soon enough, exquisite, unexpected medleys arranged by her music director, Jeff Cubeta, took over. There was an astonishing mashup of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” (Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb) and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” further enhanced by a sampling of “Because the Night” (Springsteen and Patti Smith). And an even more compelling coupling of “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King, Lieber & Stoller) and “If I Should Fall Behind” (Springsteen). Carr-Kaffashan went all-out and convincingly country with “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (Ed Bruce & Patsy Bruce, famously covered by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson), and all gospel-y with “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Bob Dylan). She forged a connection with fellow East End of Long Islander Billy Joel, leading to the solo “Down Easter Alexa” and later to her encore of “And So It Goes” combined with “River of Dreams.” Along the way, she paid just tribute to Cat Stevens (“Father and Son”) and Leonard Cohen (“Anthem”) and their takes on the lives of men.

Carr-Kaffashan’s most essential underpinning in this convincing display of eclectic unity was Cubeta, playing sterling and pliable piano throughout her set, as well as providing beautifully paired background and duet vocals when called for. As always, Matt Scharfglass on both double- and electric bass and Sean Harkness on guitar were in top form. David Hilder’s direction was both crisp and meaningful. Musically, the show was nearly perfect. If I have a quibble, it’s with a bit of Carr-Kaffashan’s narration, e.g., a convoluted threading in her introduction to her backup band. This can easily be polished before her happily promised “couple of dates in the fall.”

How the Light Gets In
Don’t Tell Mama – April 27, June 6

Category: Reviews


About the Author ()

Robert Windeler is the author of 18 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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