Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2017’


Carmen Cusack – “If You Knew My Story”

Carmen Cusack
If You Knew My Story

Bay Area Cabaret, Venetian Room, San Francisco, CA, January 29, 2017

Tony and Grammy Award nominee Carmen Cusack slowly made her was to the stage at the Venetian Room to the plaintive bluegrass fiddle tune “Strong is the Heart”, followed by the rousing  “Tell Me She Didn’t”, two tunes cut from the final soundtrack of her star making turn in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star. Right away I knew we were in for a very special evening that proved to be one of Bay Area Cabaret’s finest shows.

Cusack doesn’t fit the typical Broadway ingénue model, having taken a roundabout track through singing waitress, cruise ship performer, London’s West End and finally to the Great White Way. Carmen is a breath of fresh air, quite capable of seamlessly moving from the bluegrass songs of Bright Star to upbeat jazzy versions of “Secret Love” (Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster) from Calamity Jane or showtunes from her roles in Les Miserables, South Pacific, Wicked and Phantom.

Her voice is subtly powerful, neither brash or belty. Cusack has lovely control and phrasing, evidenced in “Back to Before” (Lynn Ahrens/ Stephen Flaherty) from Ragtime  and a great rendition of  Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington’s “The Nearness of You”. Backed by musical director John Boswell, local bassist Daniel Fabricant and Yvette Holzworth on the fiddle, Cusack also showcased her strong songwriting skills on her originals “Shane”, about an early crush and “Middle Lane”, an homage to her West End friends.

Cusack shined on her audition song for Bright Star, the gospel staple “Wayfaring Stranger” accompanied by some lovely violin by Holzworth.  We all got to sing along on Bright Star’s optimistic “Sun is Gonna Shine”, which she used as a not so subtle reference to surviving the current political maelstrom. She followed that with Bright Star’s poignant closing number “At Long Last”, returning for an encore of “Where is Love” (Lionel Bart) from Oliver.

2016 was quite the year for Cusack, who’s paid her dues and was amply rewarded with numerous award nominations. Like her character Alice Murphy from Bright Star, she’s a survivor, told in the moving song and title of her show “If You Knew My Story”. Kudos to Marilyn Levinson and Bay Area Cabaret on another great show.

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