Kelly Howe is a splendid exponent of the Linda Ronstadt songbook in Just One Look by the Midnight Company at Blue Strawberry. Encompassing Ronstadt’s range is no easy task. In her long career, she embraced a wide range of genres— rock, country, the Great American Songbook, Latin, and operetta. Howe nails every style.
Just One Look is a hybrid show that incorporates theatrical elements into classic cabaret. The show has a script in which Howe portrays Ronstadt in addition to performing her songs. The playwright is Joe Hanrahan, who also directed and appears in the show.
Hanrahan plays Lenny Anderson, a music journalist who “covered them all back then.” He toured with Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones but never did get a chance to interview his great unrequited love, Linda Ronstadt. He calls her a rock goddess, the Venus of rock and roll. He says he fell in love with her with “just one look,” quoting the title of one of her best-known songs.
Lenny is first onstage. After giving a quick overview of Ronstadt’s career, he tells the audience he is about to fill in the one gap in his portfolio by interviewing of his idol, Ronstadt. It will, of course, be an imaginary interview. As Lenny tells us, Rondstadt is living in seclusion in her hometown of Tuscon, Arizona, where she suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease.
When Lenny says he just wants to talk about Linda’s music, Howe’s Ronstadt comes onstage. Lenny takes Linda and the audience on a chronological tour of her career. He does most of the talking, recounting events and introducing many other people who played a part in her life.
When Lenny takes Linda back to her past, she doesn’t say much. Instead, she is inspired to perform. In number after number, Howe’s singing makes her the Ronstadt of Lenny’s dreams.
In essence, Lenny supplies the connecting material cabaret singers usually furnish themselves. This way of building a show allows the vocalist to concentrate on the music while the narrator provides the insights normally found in a cabaret artist’s patter. Just One Look is a delightful evening, but if Hanrahan continues blending theater and cabaret, I hope he will bring more drama to the script.
The excellent band includes Curt Landes (music director/piano), Tom Maloney (guitar/bass), and Mark Rogers (percussion/vocals). Liz Henning brightens the show with her costumes.
Just One Look will be presented again at 7:30 p.m. on May 8, 15, 22, and 29 at Blue Strawberry Showroom & Lounge, 364 North Boyle Avenue. The shows on May 8 and 15 are already sold out. For more information, call 314-256-1745 or go to https://bluestrawberrystl.com/.
Blue Strawberry and The Midnight Company have announced that the previously announced extended performances of the Linda Ronstadt show, Just One Look, on March 22 and 29, are sold out. Additional performances, for April 12, 13, and 14 (Wednesday through Friday) have been added. Tickets at $25 for the 7:30 p.m. shows will go on sale Friday, March 17, at 10 a.m. and can be reserved at BlueStrawberrySTL.com or by calling 314-256-1745.
Photo by Todd Davis