Maureen McGovern at 1776: Class & Talent in a Wonderful Room
Maureen McGovern's opening night performance, August 18 at the Midway Stage at the 1776 Steak House, was a joyous and wonderful evening of musical entertainment.
While her recordings, both the 1970's hits, and later, the simply produced piano and vocal tracks, are celebrations of her vocal versatility and style, only an intimate, cabaret setting like the Midway at 1776 can capture this performer's stunning vocal range, gift for humor and genuine warmth.
Spanning her repertoire from jazz to Broadway to playful specialty material, this consummate cabaret performer delighted the crowd with each of her selections.
Appearing with her accompanist, the accomplished pianist Lee Musiker, Ms. McGovern was equally impressive belting out an exuberant Ding Dong the Witch is Dead as a touching My Ship, or The Nearness of You. With jazzy scat notes or bluesy melodies, she made the audience aware of her voice as a stunning musical instrument played with remarkable control and talent.
An a capella turn with a haunting, familiar melody like Over the Rainbow would be a brave and chancy undertaking for a lesser voice, but here it was a compelling, thrilling moment.
And her well-paced, well-acted turn at Sondheim's sophisticated and not a little vicious Would I Leave You brought the house down especially with her charming and very funny intro and patter.
In all, Maureen McGovern's performance was just the kind of knock-out cabaret evening we have been longing for at the beach. The new stage at 1776 is a perfect venue for it, with its faux front porch dcor, potted trees with twinkling lights, and enough room on the stage for performer and baby grand.
In fact, cabaret and jazz enthusiasts who lament the closing of Manhattan's Rainbow and Stars, or who pine for the Oak Room at the Algonquin have to go no farther than Midway Shopping Center on Route One for an exquisite evening.
And 1776 owners Ken and Linda Butler have a spectacular season of entertainment planned for their cozy new room. With coming appearances by the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, the John Pizzarelli Trio, and an evening of Henry Mancini movie music to coincide with the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, great things are in store! As for the Millennium, Dec. 31 promises an unforgettable evening (and First Night Celebration the next day!) with songstress Lainie Kazan and the 1776 jazz orchestra. Check it out!
As for Maureen McGovern, I only hope this talented, genuinely warm performer will consider coming back to the beach next season for a return engagement. In the meantime, here's to a Grammy for your wonderful new CD!
A CAMP Interview: Maureen McGovern talks about music, theatre, and Yorkshire Terriers
by Fay Jacobs
Singer and musical theatre performer Maureen McGovern paid a visit to the CAMP Rehoboth office on Monday, August 16 to talk a little bit about her trip to the beach to perform at the Midway Stage at 1776. I had a chance to ask her about her remarkable performing career.
Dressed casually for the summer afternoon, the elegant songstress accepted Steve and Murray's offer to enCAMP in their living room for the interview. Although we were obviously a stop on the press tour, our conversation was anything but a formal press briefing. Pretty soon we were chatting about her love of musical theatre (she most recently starred in a concert version of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Sundance Festival in Utah), her new recording (a knockout collection of vocals with piano accompaniment by Mike Renzi) and her two wonderful Yorkshire Terriers, Rocky and Hannah.
CAMP: Are the pups traveling with you?
MM: No, I just got Hannah; she was a rescued dog, she's 8-months old and she and Rocky are off at boot-camp getting used to each other. I can't wait to see them come home!
CAMP: And home is?
MM: L.A. I lived in New York for 18 years but moved to L.A. three years ago. I'm ready if we get an earthquakeeverything in my house is bolted down or stuck in place with museum wax.
CAMP: I understand that you belong to a terrific organization on the West CoastPAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support)taking care of the animals of AIDS patients. How did you get involved with them?
MM: Well, I'm an animal lover and I think it's a great organization. I've done some benefits for them, as well as contributed. Not only do I think what they do is valuable, with pets helping lift the spirits of the patients, but I also think there's a terrific correlation between music and healing. In the near future I'm going to be involved in a music healing projectan album to lift the spirits for AIDS patients as well as for people with cancer, depression, all kinds of things. The spirit is so essential in healing. I've been blessed with this musical ability and I want to use it this way.
CAMP: Of course, you are well known for your Disaster Diva days, with the hit song "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure and "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno, but your career has been so very diverse. Tell us a little about it.
MM: Well, I'm grateful for those 70's hits; I wouldn't be able to do the things I do today without having had them. But those early albums didn't really reflect what I love to do. They were pre-recorded, everything was chosen for me and then they brought me in, and I'd be almost like a background singer. Those early albums were totally overproduced and bore no resemblance to the music I wanted to do. I remember one funny story, when I did the first album. I asked, "Couldn't we have just one number with only vocal and piano?" The producer said, "Oh no, it will sound like we ran out of money!"
CAMP: So now you're getting to do what you wanted all along. Your new recording The Pleasure of His Company is just vocal and piano accompaniment. And a Grammy nomination, I hear!
MM: Yes, and for just piano and vocals. I'm delighted. At the end of the 1970's I set out to do different things; things that challenged me. I've worked with symphonies, done concert versions of shows, songs by all different composers like Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael. And I started producing or co-producing my own recordings. I finally got to make what I consider to be my first album, A Woman In Love which I did in the mid-80's with pianist Mike Renzi. It was the first time people really heard me and they were asking, "Who is she???" We've been collecting song ideas since with the intent to follow up and The Pleasure of His Company is our second collaboration. We recorded this one over three afternoons out in L.A. I produced it myself, which is really important to me.
CAMP: In addition to your concert and recording career, musical theatre has been a big part of your life. Tell us a little bit about the roles you've done.
MM: My first Broadway show was Pirates of Penzance, playing Mabel. I'd had no real theatre experience, just a week in a summer stock show and then BroadwayI hadn't even been in high school shows!
CAMP: And Frank Rich in The New York Times loved you. Called you "a winning comedienne." What a coup!
MM: It was great. I was in the show for 14 months. From there I played opposite Raul Julia in Nine, and...
CAMP: I saw you at the Kennedy Center in D.C. in the concert version of Of Thee I Sing with the late Jack Guilford and Larry Kert.
MM: That was a wonderful experience. Jack Guilford was such a dear man. And Larry Kert, too... I've done a lot of Gershwin Music.
CAMP: And didn't you recently do Of Thee I Sing again? How did today's audiences react to that 1930's tale of fictitious White House scandals, given this past year's headlines?
MM: People just screamed laughing. We had to put a disclaimer in the program saying that we hadn't changed a word of the original script. I don't think people believed us! It was great fun.
CAMP: And what about your children's show? I understand your wrote the music and starred.
MM: Yes, The Bengal Tiger's Ball had its East Coast premier recently in Florida. I played "Whozit Whatzit Whatcha MaCallit, a guardian alien. I love working on children's shows. It's so important to help them foster self-esteem and to get them to believe in themselves. I worry for kidsI have several nieces and it's a crazy world. We have to help them find their strength as people. Like the Columbine shootingit's so scary.
CAMP: Do you think your production will speak to gay youngsters, helping them with self-esteem?
MM: Absolutely. All children need to find their self-worth, whatever their lifestyle turns out to be. We have to tell them they're alright and to find their self-worth insidenot in what others think.
CAMP: It's your 25th anniversary in show business; have you enjoyed yourself?
MM: Absolutely! And after this album...Gee, I guess with the word album I'm dating myself; I mean CD.
CAMP: Well, that's a baby boomer thing. I'm in that club. And thanks to that gorgeous photo of you in AARP's Modern Maturity celebrating the big 5-0, it's no secret that you've just had a birthday. Happy Birthday!
MM: Thanks. Fifty isn't so scary to me anymore.
CAMP: I just saw a 50-plus Bernadette Peters do Annie Get Your Gun and 50-plus Cher is out doing that terrific tour. And here you are looking fabulous. Do you think our generation of women have more opportunities these days?
MM: We're certainly more active than ever before. I love the wisdom being 50 brings. I'm having a grand time. I got to do that valentine of a show Umbrellas of Cherbourg at Robert Redford's Sundance Theatre Festival, and I'll be doing Of Thee I Sing again in Minneapolis in October, and it's a very busy time. I'm delighted to be here in Rehoboth Beach for the four shows and off for these few days to chill out. I love antiques, so I'll be doing some browsing and maybe shopping.
CAMP: Don't miss our wonderful Rehoboth Beach stores and restaurants.
MM: I won't!
CAMP: And give my regards to the Yorkies.
MM: Oh, I miss them!
CAMP: And best of luck on your 1776 shows.
MM: Thanks! See you there!
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999