Meg Flather

October 4, 2015 | By

Meg FlatherI last saw Meg Flather at Don’t Tell Mama in the mid-’80s and I remember being highly entertained by her voice and her show. Seeing her again at that venerable performance space in 2015 in her new show, “Carly & Me,” I am happy to report that her wit, her charm and her singing are as good as, if not better than, ever. She is quick to point out that Carly Simon is her favorite singer/songwriter and, in fact, was the inspiration for Flather, herself, becoming a songwriter. In this show, she has chosen to alternate Simon classics with songs of her own devising that in some way connect thematically, musically or biographically to Simon’s. It’s an interesting conceit that for the most part works wellt.

Accompanied by the always reliable Paul Greenwood on piano and John Mettam on guitar, the music is strong throughout the show, although the players’ backup vocals were under-miked at times. Of her original material, I particularly liked a funny take on communication and self-confidence in the new media age called “Like Me.” This was introduced with the observation that one of the main functions of Facebook is revenge on ex-boyfriends. Attending the memorial service for a good friend’s husband, she was inspired to write a haunting, optimistic contemplation of life after death in “The Secret (Life Is Eternal).” The lilting, child-like melody of “At Midnight There Is You” perfectly underscore the tale of familial love; insistent, folk-rock rhythms work similar magic on “Find a Way to Me.” Even a song that comes dangerously close to touchy-feely, Hallmark card territory, “Hold On Tight,” is saved by her gentle conviction and open-hearted delivery.

Flather’s choices for Carly Simon material are often pleasantly unexpected; you won’t find “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” or “You’re So Vain” here. (Well, there is a clever bit of “sampling” of the latter at one point, but that really doesn’t count.) The revelation in the show, for me, comes from Romulus Heart, an opera Simon created (commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera) about the effects of a divorce: a heart-wrenching song called “Voulez-Vous Danser?”; it has the refrain “…everybody wants to dance with my daddy.”

In her patter, Flather pointedly and emotionally talks about how the Simon songs have affected and reflected her life through the years. There are passion and conviction in these moments. That is why it so disconcerting that it doesn’t hold true with the songs themselves. She has chosen to recreate the songs rather than investigate them, even boasting at one point that each is sung in Simon’s original key (greeted by audience applause as if this were a feat to be admired). The renditions of songs such as “Boys in the Trees,” “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of,” “Love of My Life,” and “The Right Thing to Do” are so faithfully arranged and sung that the show becomes “Carly-mania” (not the real thing but an incredible simulation—as the Beatlemania ads used to rave).

In “Anticipation,” which opens the show, she even includes each and every extended syllable of “…anticipation is making me late, is keeping me wai-ai-ai-ai-ai-iting” each time she sings the refrain. Her simple, direct, conversational phrasing on her own material stands in sharp contrast to this soulless, if technically proficient, mimicking. We see that she loves the songs, but she doesn’t make them her own. With her intelligence, talent and warmth, I really wanted her to get inside this material and use Simon’s words and situations to tell us her own stories but, sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Even with all that, the show is definitely worthwhile and Meg Flather is worth a visit no matter what she is doing.

“Carly & Me”
Don’t Tell Mama  –  September 27

Category: 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?”

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