|Songs Are Like Friends and Vickie
Phillips win an OOBR award for 2004!
|A Musical Journey
reviewed by Julie Congress
A Musical Journey... is performer Vickie Phillips's homage to the composers
Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, and Charles Aznavour. To be honest, I was only slightly
acquainted with the songs of Weill and knew nothing of the works of Brel or
Aznavour. Therefore this cabaret was a welcome experience, a joyous rendering of
the songs of these remarkable composers.
Phillips has an unusual voice and brings unique interpretations to the songs, and her
love for these musicians is clear. She is expertly accompanied by musical director
Gerry Dieffenbach (who has a wonderful voice and backs up Phillips quite well).
Later on in the show, Phillips is also joined by Bill Schimmel on the accordion. I
was delighted by how much a single accordion can liven up a show Schimmel's
entrance at the very end of the first act completely reinvigorated the cabaret and
kept the energy up throughout the second act.
As with many shows of this nature, Phillips provides a bit of talk between numbers.
In the first act, it's usually just a little background information about the life of the
composer and/or herself. The structure of the second act is much stronger in this
part of the show she's telling us about her own trip to Europe and the impact it had
upon her. She quite effectively uses the songs to reinforce her story and the
transitions between songs are much smoother and more interesting.
One of the best numbers in A Musical Journey... is Brel's 'Carousel.' All aspects of
the production come together exceedingly well in this dizzying, unsettling song. Bob
Ost's direction peaks, in my mind, during this number. The lighting, by Ginny
Hack, is surprisingly complex for a festival setting, and perfectly underscores the
song. Other notable songs include Weill and Ira Gershwin's 'One Life to Live,'
Aznavour's 'Dance in the Old Fashioned Way,' and Eric Blau's 'If We Only Have
While A Musical Journey... sometimes feels slow in places, particularly in the first
act, it really is a pleasure to get to hear the works of these excellent composers.
|A Musical Journey
Review by Charles Battersby
As its full title suggests, A Musical Journey with the music of Brel, Weill,
Aznavour, and Blau takes the audience on a trip through time and space
using the songs of some of the 20th century's greatest composers. Singer
Vickie Phillips and accompanist Gerry Dieffenbach start by taking their
listeners back to Brussels in the 1950s with the works of Jacques Brel.
Then it's a little further back in time and off to Berlin with a medley of Kurt
Weill, then back again to Belgium for the works of Eric Blau, and along the
way a few tangents are taken to squeeze in a song or two by Charles
Formated more like a cabaret show than a musical revue, A Musical
Journey... has Vickie Phillips breaking the fourth wall and interacting with
the audience between songs. Occasionally her accompanist, the cheeky
Gerry Dieffenbach, let go of the keys long enough to fire off a quip.
The selection of songs by Brel should be familiar to those who have seen
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well & Living in Paris, though there's enough of a
difference to make "A Musical Journey..." stand on its own feet. A clever
Weill medley in the first act provided most of the Weill material, though
there are a few full ones by Weill, including two of his collaborations with
Speaking of Gershwin, his unexpectedly happy and peppy lyrics illustrated
how the music took the audience through the full range of human emotions,
rather than just the depression one would expect from the likes of Weill,
Brel, and pals.
Also contributing to a more uplifting experience was Phillips's obvious love
for the material. Phillips was informative, reverent, and wistful when
speaking of her European inspirations, and couldn't help mentioning that she
studied under Elly Stone (who starred in the original production of Jacques
Brel Is Alive and Well & Living in Paris).
Phillips herself had a striking stage presence, with her soft voice,
occasionally belting out a line or two when needed. Dressed in a black outfit
trimmed with sparkling silver, Ms Phillips never had to worry about getting
lost on the stage (her flaming red hair and glittering silver eyelashes helped
In true cabaret style Gerry Dieffenbach did more than just sit politely in the
background and play. His strong voice and cheeky personality made for a
more interesting show.
The tiny stage didn't offer much room for a set, but a street lamp was
flickering away upstage, providing more ambiance than light. Completing
the set design were photographs of the various composers and lyricists, and
a selections of props that evoked a cabaret setting from the 40s. A rack of
hats and feather boas was tucked into one corner, and a traveling trunk of
costumes was nestled upstage conspicuously.
Although Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well... has been consistently performed
for 30 years, and Weill's work still gets around, Ms. Phillips is doing the
theatrical community a favor in presenting their work with such reverence.
|A Musical Journey
With the songs of Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Eric Blau, and Charles
Review (c) 2004 by Seth Bisen-Hersh
(click here to go to original OOBR page)
A Musical Journey did just that -- it took the audience on a journey through
a myriad songs by some ingenious early-20th-century European composers.
A vast range of material was covered in varied, exciting ways.
The show was done as a cabaret -- there were almost two dozen songs
interspersed with anecdotes. Vickie Phillips delightfully delved into the
repertoire, offering both poignant and hilarious patter as to why she chose
them. The show consisted of mostly songs by Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill.
Phillips talked in detail about their lives and their backgrounds. She made the
show very personal by describing what it was like for her to visit Eastern
Europe and the Netherlands, including Anne Frank's hideaway, while also
kvetching about how long it took her to get the rights to some of the songs.
The highlights of the show were the more dynamic numbers -- either
comical or powerfully emotional. These highlights included Brel's
"Madeleine," which she delivered with good comic timing; his "Carousel,"
which received a fascinatingly frightening, frenzied rendition; and finally
Weill's "Pirate Jenny," which was truly haunting in its fierceness.
Phillips was accompanied on keyboard by her musical director/arranger
Gerry Dieffenbach. Dieffenbach backed her up on a few songs and opened
the second act with a thrilling rendition of Weill's "One Life to Live." He
possessed a lilting tenor that filled the intimate space nicely.
Additionally, Phillips was intelligently directed by cabaret veteran Bob Ost.
The staging made use of many distinct areas in the small space. Rob
Cardazone did a great job creating various light spots and diverse lighting
textures to illuminate the passion of the performers.
A Musical Journey was a well-written journey through much good material,
some of which rarely gets performed nowadays. Let's hope it will get
performed again, because this material should not be forgotten!
|NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST REVIEW
-Andrew Martin (edited for length)
|OOBR - Off Off Broadway Review - Doug DeVita
|The Indefatigable Vickie Phillips has balls, if nothing else. In a cabaret
world where performers rely on endless interpretations of the same 100 or
so standards (Phillips herself has done several shows featuring the work of
Weill and Brel), Phillips has taken a creative risk, producing an entire
evening of totally unfamiliar songs that have been written by two mostly
unsung but talented composers, her friends Bob Ost and Gerry
Dieffenbach. And with the elan that is given for this performer, she soars
and scores once again in her latest, Song Are Like Friends;Vickie Phillips
sings Bob and Gerry.
If there are now a few silver threads among the gold in her voice, she is
nonetheless a pro who knows how to use her instrument to its best
advantage, and if there is a bit more sentimentality on display in this show
than in her previous ones, the genuine emotion and artistry at her command
makes for a special evening of moving and exciting theatricality. That she
has been beautifully supported by both her composers (in addition to their
songs, Ost wrote the patter and directed; Dieffenbach supplied
accompaniment both on the piano and with dead-pan, pitch perfect asides)
only adds another sheen of meaning to an evening that glistens with love,
laughter and impressive music.
Outfitted in simple but elegant black, a simple spotlight illuminating the
flaming copper hair that frames her pale, expressive face, she delivers
number after number with elegance, ease and conviction: very few singers
can tell a story in song the way she can, and she has some incredible
stories to tell in the music chosen for the show. Whether funny (Ost's
Ballad Of The Victim, a witty riff on Weill), jazzy (Dieffenbach's Move It
On Over), or devastating (Ost's David, Ever With Me), the performer, and
composer and their stories all unite to create an intimate work of art that
becomes a love affair not only encompassing Vickie, Bob and Gerry, but
her audience as well, and everybody involved benefits from the experience.
Songs are like friends, and every once in a while it is nice to meet a few
new ones through old ones.
|You'll be touched in your heart by Songs Are Like Friends at Don't Tell Mama —
there's humor, emotion and only the best from Vickie Phillips, Bob Ost and Gerry
|CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO VICKIE PHILLIP'S BIO AND RAVES
Click here to go to more information about Vickie's Next Show: Musically
Read or Sign my Dreambook guestbook!
Service Number: 212.967.7711
|Songs Are Like Friends --
Don't Tell Mama Cabaret Theatre &
The Duplex Cabaret Theater
OOBR AWARD WINER
|Love And Laughter --- JUDY'S
|American Cabaret:European Roots ---
ROSE'S TURN NYC
MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets)
|Songs Of Life, Love & Other Moments
-- Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
|It's About Time -- Weill Recital Hall at
Carnegie Hall - AND NEW DATES AT
DON'T TELL MAMA (click here)
|VICKIE PHILLIPS; A TRUE BALANCING ACT
Chanteuse Vickie Phillips possesses a life that seems to be all about balance.
On one hand, the Springfield resident balances life as a New England wife,
mother and grandmother with a New York cabaret career that has taken her
to Carnegie Hall and every major club venue over the last two decades. And
though she's been known for focussing largely on the songs of Jacques
Brel, Kurt Weill, and Maltby and Shire, in her latest (and arguably greatest)
cabaret presentation, entitled Songs Are Like Friends, Phillips balances
between two of her favorite composer/lyricists, namely director Bob Ost
and musical director Gerry Dieffenbach. And it seems a wiser choice she
could not make, because the marriage of her artistry with these two talented
composers makes for a magical match.
Overall, the show has so many standout moments that it's difficult to select
favorites; it's pure pleasure to hear such a well-developed act of so much
material not immediately recognizable. But above and beyond all else, her
powerful version of Gerry Dieffenbach's He Taught Me To Dance should
be included in all future offerings;it's a moment that can only be described
as utterly important. Her aptitude for comedy is nicely showcased with
Ost's Ballad of the Victim, and Dieffenbach's Move It On Over is
transformed here from rock-n-roll anthem to a blusey take rather
reminiscent of Peggy Lee at the height of her powers. Indeed, Phillips is at
the height of her own.
Their impressive compositional talents notwithstanding, Bob Ost's direction
of the show is ever-solid and always a pleasure to behold, and New York
has precious few musical directors who can measure up to Gerry
Dieffenbach; his previous work with Phillips was always delightful to say
the least, but to hear him provide the vocal counter-point on his Keep Me
Close with Phillips is simply a dream come true for the cabaret aficionado.
Similarly, Shawn Moniger's technical direction on lighting and sound is
simply superb throughout.
|A SINGER'S JOURNEY WITH THE
SONGS OF JACQUES BREL, KURT
WEILL AND CHARLES AZNAVOUR.
|scroll down to view
|THREE NEW SHOW DATES FOR SUMMER NIGHTS:
Don't Tell Mama Cabaret Theater
located at 343 West 46th Street
at 7:15 PM,
June 22nd, July 6th, and July 9th