Decorative furnish  Building advice  Accommodation of clauses

Sing Webb & Williams

Date: 2001-11-23
source: Cabaret Notes
author: Barbara & Scott Seigel

Pop composers tend to be linked in the public mind with the artists who had colossal hits with their songs. Jimmy Webb ("By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," etc.) is forever yoked to Glenn Campbell; Paul Williams is endlessly tied to Barbra Streisand, with whom he co-wrote "Evergreen." Well, Feinstein's at the Regency is currently offering discerning music lovers the opportunity to hear these two major songwriters without the filter of their famous interpreters. In this show, they sing their own songs, tell their own stories, and delight us afresh with their compelling artistry. Joined (all too briefly) by their special guest Liz Callaway, who fuses her own extraordinary voice to their music, they present a cabaret show with only one fault: It isn't anywhere near long enough to contain the depth and breadth of so much talent. This could have easily been a two-act show with an intermission, and probably should have been.

Paul Williams is playful in person, his self-deprecatory patter as informative as it is entertaining. Webb, on the other hand, seems more reserved at first but soon exhibits a dry sense of humor. Together, the two men have an easy, warm rapport that quickly envelops the audience. As a singer of his own songs, Williams is sincere but tends to slur his words; he sings, pop style, with the microphone jammed against his mouth. Webb has a more elegant and effective style, and a sweet voice that he doesn't push.

While he, too, often sings with his eyes closed, he nonetheless invites the listener into his lyrics with an expressive sense of wistful romanticism. This is most clearly on display in his interpretation of "Galveston" which, with its haunting arrangement, is completely unlike the upbeat version made famous by Campbell. It is, in fact, stunningly original - and even more memorable than the long-remembered hit recording.

It's a pleasure to hear these guys sing their own songs - but only up to a point. That's why they were smart to bring in the golden-voiced Liz Callaway to show their material in the strongest light possible. Callaway comes on in the middle of the show to sing with each of them and to take a solo turn that happens to be the highlight of the evening. Her coupling of Webb's "Didn't We?" and "MacArthur Park" (in an Alex Rybeck arrangement) is a dynamic mini-musical all by itself. The show is beautifully enhanced by Chris Caswell's work on synthesizer, an instrument we often despise. In the hands of a master like Caswell, who uses the synth with delicate restraint, it truly enriches the musical experience. You can still catch Webb, Williams, and Callaway at Feinstein's through November 24.