Freshly pressed linen, Lanvin's 1927 fragrance Arpege and cultured pearls come to mind during Diana Sheehan's cabaret Midway, about one woman's experience of mid-life crisis.
It is a delicious, scintillating, seemingly effortless stage enchantment. It's now in performance rotation at the Stone Cottage, part of WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Festival, Sheehan exhibits fluent mastery of the cabaret style in two sets: the first ten songs, the second nine plus an encore. Her repertoire consists of finely crafted tunes by some of the America's most celebrated composers and lyricists, not necessarily the most familiar numbers, yet all juxtaposed intriguingly to reflect the dominant themes of each set.
Set one revels in reawakening. From Rodgers and Hart to Bucchino and Gershwin to Sondheim, Sheehan inhabits each song as if examining its core, resonant meaning for the first time and sharing it with her audience in heartfelt, confessional manner.
Set two expands the emotional range to include longing and hope. Sheehan smolders with vibrant desire as she evokes quirky personas and places, compromising situations and reflective sorrows: Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy" and Duke and Nash's "Just Like a Man" allow her to delve deep into fully realized life perspectives of the women who might sing them. She concludes with a dynamic crescendo of passionate energy, singing Jacques Brel's "Crazy Carousel" at daringly dizzy tempo.
Attired in set one in a classic black cocktail length bias draped shift in satin and velvet that belonged to her grandmother and then, in set two, in shimmering, pale peach cocktail pajamas, Sheehan fully engages her audience, every inch a lady. Risqué but never raunchy, glamorous but never glib, grand but never grand-standing, Sheehan adds a major dose of feminine class to a diverse, entertaining festival of performance art. Sophisticated accompaniment by James McQuillen on keyboards (also musical director), Sarah Choi on cello and Lincoln Apeland on upright bass accompany her beautifully.
◊ To see a complete schedule of shows and venues, go here.
◊ WaterTower is streaming several shows and events at Out of the Loop. To watch them on our site, click the US Stream icon at the top of this page. It will open a separate tab. The streaming schedule is also included there.