Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sweet Genius!

Over to the right there, where the links are, you can see one for 'Rob Lindley, Talented Guy.' I've known Rob for going on eight years now, and he's always been a consummate performer and a fine musician. I've realized recently, reading his blog, that he's also become quite a good writer. His talents came together this evening in a superb entertainment called "Hit Factory."

Rob is an experienced player at the Chicago cabaret scene, having previously been married to a cabaret singer, Morgan Duke, and as a member of the trio Foiled Again. Foiled Again were the artists featured tonight in "Hit Factory." The two women who together with Rob make up Foiled Again are Allison Bazarko, soprano, and Anne Sheridan Smith, alto. I've known Anne and Allison for years as well; all four of us sang together at Navy Pier back when that still meant something, and they formed the trio while we were all still there. They've been a big wheel in local cabaret for a few years now, and "Hit Factory" started as a cabaret evening of theirs back about 2001. Briefly, "Hit Factory" was and is an evening of songs written by the composer's beehive known as the Brill Building, where great songwriting teams of the nascent rock-'n-roll wera seemingly sprang up like weeds, pounding out their chapters of the Great American Songbook in this deco building on lower Broadway in NYC. Rob's been mildly infatuated with these songs and their creators for a long time, and he's finally turned it into a full-fledged musical. Porchlight Music Theatre's new lab program, Off the Porch, presented a reading/performance of the piece Monday night at the Mercury Theatre here in Chicago. Foiled Again starred, and Rob wrote the book.

Bad stuff out of the way, because it's almost beside the point: There isn't really a play here. Actor John Francisco narrated the evening, and he basically served as a tour guide through the life and times of the writers and the mania they created at the Brill. (Porchlight Artistic Associate Sarah Morello directed the piece.) Occasionally, one of the trio would move center stage and speak what sounded to me like direct quotes from the songwriters themselves. None of this seemed necessary to me, because A) I'm not a fan of shoehorning songs into a format just because it might say "musical," and B) there's nothing inherently theatrical about these songs.

These songs...wow, what songs. What writers! Gerry Goffin/Carole King! Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich! Bacharach and David! Rodgers and Hart! (OK, not the last one.) Rob's expertise in curating a cabaret evening was palpable here, because he served up not only the big hits ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Da Do Ron Ron," "Leader of the Pack") but also obscuros like Bacharach and David's "Me Japanese Boy, I Love You" and Carole King's tongue-in-cheek answer to Neil Sedaka's "Oh! Carol!" which is, yeah, "Oh Neil." All were fantastically put over by Foiled Again, with schilky-schmoov vocal arrangements by Allison, and a fine five-piece band led by Doug Peck.

It would be easy to dismiss Anne Sheridan Smith as the sassy alto belter, Allison Bazarko as the doe-eyed thrush, and Rob Lindley as, um, the guy. Too easy. All three were given a chance to do the funny, do the touching, and do the rock, and all three did so in spades. The highlights of the evening for me were Anne and Allison two-handing it with two very different songs, "Look of Love" and "The Look of Love," Allison singing the former, a "look at the two of them" torcher; and Anne singing the more familiar Bacharach/David number, looking fabulous in a tight black dress. (Allison and Rob looked great too.) Rob's pure, unadorned reading of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was the penultimate number, nearly wiping out the room before all three closed it out with a kickin' version of the Phil Spector/Jeff Barry /Ellie Greenwich epic "River Deep, Mountain High."

I may sound like I'm fawning over my friends. So what. I've known how good they were for a long time, and God willing, you'll all get that chance. So the next time you see the words "Foiled Again" in the paper, stop and pop, because I urge you to see them wherever they'll be next, doing whatever they'll do. I personally hope it's a less-talk-more-rock version of "Hit Factory: Songs of the Brill Building." Because these three should be riding this songbook to some phazzy phat cash.


At 2:31 PM, Blogger Robbie said...


Thanks for you kind words - can't wait to have some free time with you during the Urinestowns so I can hear more thoughts - and more gushing!! :)


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