Lady Liberty is a story of talent, transformation, love and lust set to great songs, topped with Lucienne Weber’s soaring vocals and a talented four piece band.
Cabaret is a fabulously convenient art form that allows good performers to reveal dark parts of themselves without delving too deep or bombarding us with self-indulgence. Sharing personal journeys through music is a powerful way to connect because some part in the show will always resonate profoundly with someone.
Lucienne Weber generously shares down-to-earth snippets about her experiences with the mental health roundabout: depression, ADHD, to medicate or not to medicate and emotional highs and lows that any performer will relate to. Stories of medication ups and downs and maddening conversations with doctors are amusing, whether they be about needing to sleep, a LOT, or failing to reach orgasm: “No! - libido is NOT a problem.”
Weber also speaks of joyously heading to New York to study and audition despite these mental health issues and about weathering the expected ups and downs, emerging a little wounded but still positive.
Wrapped around these tales Ms Weber presents relatable songs from famous musicals and a few not so famous but still glorious. Her voice delivers a strong and vibrant belt quality and is richly emotional in the lower registers, when more delicate tones are called for. Just occasionally some higher pitches were a little off but first night nerves may have contributed to this. Weber’s sung diction was truly impressive but the dialogue needs more work to truly enhance the stories. Somehow, the depth of tone and emotion in her songs was not always transferred to her spoken voice. Nuance was lost in these instances as the vocal became frenetic and screechy. This is a shame as the story deserves to be interpreted well to match Ms Weber’s expressive eyes and smile.
Some of the standout songs were “Holding to the Ground” (Falsettos), “My House” (Matilda), “Stars and the Moon” (Songs For a New World) and “History of Wrong Guys” (Kinky Boots). The drama of “Climbing Uphill” (The Last Five Years) was a great end to the Audition Medley (arranged by Weber and Christopher McGovern) highlighting all the fears and insecurities performers are inundated with during their careers. Who among us has not questioned our weight, height, looks, ability, suitability or general lack as we prepare to audition or even rehearse a part we have indeed been cast in?
Songs that really featured Weber’s strong Broadway Belt were “Defying Gravity” (Wicked) and the few snippets from A Chorus Line, “What I Did For Love” and “I Hope I Get It”.
Amidst struggles of personal doubt are hilarious takes on three possible New York romances (and maybe the elusive spousal Green Card). All seem great at first but ultimately frustrate then disappoint. There is ‘Netflix-actor-guy’, ‘fire-escape-hottie’ and ‘holiday-romance-one’. Weber relates how she was stood up, they were self-centred or simply a bit boring.
The endearing, affirming outcome is that this woman realizes that she ‘is enough’; she doesn’t have to settle for less than exactly what she deserves and actually, she deserves a great deal. To complete these stories, Weber quotes author Elizabeth Gilbert: “But never again (will I) use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for (my) own unfulfilled yearnings.”
I mentioned ‘first night nerves’ previously and I did think that Ms Weber was somewhat thrown to begin with. This soon passed and the performer was able to mostly relax into the unfolding performance. Another concern was costuming. Despite the truly fabulous and daring look of the very short and smart ‘tuxedo-like’ black halter dress with deep plunging neckline I felt the attire shackled Weber’s movement. There were a few moments of choreography that prove this performer can move very well but primarily her posture was stiff and uncomfortable, including some annoying outfit tugging, though fortunately this did not affect singing technique. I would have enjoyed the show even more if there had been less tension around the possibility of a major wardrobe malfunction even while simply transitioning from standing to sitting.
Joining Ms Weber on stage were Jason Hammond (piano), Christian Weber (trumpet), Bonnie Aue (bass Guitar), Kevin van der Zwaag (drums) and subtle voice overs by Roman Smith. These musicians really elevated the performance with passionate and expert accompaniment although I particularly enjoyed songs that set a quiet mood with predominantly vocals and piano. My main criticism is that the sound balance on opening night was not good enough. Many times during the performance the vocals were overpowered by the volume of the music and it was impossible to hear all the lyrics. This was very disappointing because these are songs you want to hear distinctly all the way through.
Clearly, the audience was entranced with Lady Liberty and I sincerely hope Lucienne Weber finds more opportunities to air this offering, and her voice. The songs were well chosen and beautifully delivered with entertaining stories woven throughout. I feel the ending was not as strong as it could be and the last one or two songs superfluous. Without these the performance length would be snappier and I would also love to see it in a true cabaret venue, audience at tables and chairs as opposed to bleacher seating. This would give Ms Weber an even better opportunity to share her talent, warmth and honesty in an intimate setting.