by Paula Citron
In her new cabaret show, Carmen unZipped, mezzo-soprano Jean Stilwell has brought back the glory days of the great chanteuses and songs that took people on a journey. The immensely rich concert featured sophisticated lyrics sung by a great interpreter.
Stilwell’s signature role is Carmen, and the songs related to both women, particularly the qualities they shared. Stilwell would mention a milestone in her own life, and sing an appropriate song that was an incisive commentary. There wasn’t a trite tune in the bunch.
We heard greats like Arlen and Charlap, but Stilwell chose many contemporary Broadway composers who are children of Sondheim in capturing mood and sentiment, such as the cynical John Bucchino and the hilariously funny team of Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich. The latter’s Taylor the Latté Boy and Apathetic Man brought down the house.
Accompanist Patti Loach is a good friend of Stilwell’s. What she lacked in polish, she made up in enthusiasm.
From the Ernest Balmer Studio, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.