This is a very pleasant evening of the music of singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, sung by a diverse cast of cabaret and musical theatre singers. I was drawn to see Tales of Joni because of Heather MacCrae and Lisa Asher – I’ve seen MacCrae live before and heard recordings by Asher. And indeed many of the brightest highlights of the evening do come from these two. Asher shines singing Joni’s hits, including a country-tinged “Raised on Robbery” and a very thoughtful and measured “Both Sides Now”.
MacCrae is at her best on a couple of less well-known songs from the early Mitchell album Clouds. She does a dynamic “That Song About The Midway” that evolves from a whisper to a belt, and a charming and winsome “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”.
The real discovery of the evening, though, is Nicholas Rodriguez singing “Conversation”. He remarkably turns this song about a romantic triangle into a truly poignant story of being in love with a closeted gay man, without changing a word. His open, highly expressive delivery makes it even more moving. It would be great to hear him sing “A Free Man in Paris”!
Gabrielle Stravelli is also a quite gifted singer – she probably has the most beautiful voice of the ensemble – but can sometimes oversing just a bit. When she reins that in, as she did for a sparse, reflective “Cactus Tree”, the results are really gorgeous.
One of the evenings chief pleasures is hearing these great voices sing together, especially for a spine-tingling version of “Woodstock”. Such a big, luscious, passionate sound!
My only real complaint about the evening as a whole: it is perhaps a little too polished. To my taste, Mitchell’s songs are at their best when their complexity and rough edges are given full play. As problems go, though, being too glossy and finished is a good problem to have. Overall, this is a really fine representation of songs both famous and obscure by one of America’s greatest songwriters.
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