Thursday, October 15, 2009

A rambling, but well-sung road

I don't have too much to say about Maureen McGovern's A Long and Winding Road, now at the Wimberley Theatre through November 15, except that it's a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the mode formerly known as "mellow." It's chiefly so because of McGovern's voice, which seems to have aged not a day since her heyday on the soundtrack of The Poseidon Adventure (the lady herself just turned 60). Whether by the grace of God or as the result of superb training and care, McGovern is still blessed with a wonderful pop instrument, and a consummate technique to match it. She was lightly miked at the Wimberley, but seemed to have plenty of power, and deployed a startling variety of color across a still-impressive range (she's an alto with a mezzo top).

And her play list was by and large admirable - a little bit of Dylan, a touch of Simon & Garfunkel, a sprinkling of the Beatles (although not, for some reason, the eponymous tune), etc. Not all the songs she sang were actually ideal for the rather bouncy piano accompaniment by Jeffrey Harris, but McGovern's vocals themselves were always expert, and with her trademarked, romantically-mournful timbre she delivered particularly lovely renditions of "You've Got a Friend," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", "Let It Be," and believe it or not, "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

As for the rest of the show - well, I'm never much one for wallowing in boomer nostalgia, and the piece is, I'm afraid, rather transparently a companion/promotion piece for the auburn-haired chanteuse's latest album. And I sometimes felt that McGovern's reliance on major political turning points of the last forty-odd years felt too on-the-nose, and a little unearned - after all, what, precisely, did she have to do with Martin Luther King, or the March on Washington? (Then again, probably half her audience credits themselves with marching at Selma and sewing an AIDS quilt, too.) Still, one never doubts McGovern's personal sympathies were, indeed, with the enlightened crusades of her generation, and at any rate, in a nostalgia piece, it's hard to dodge cornerstones like Kennedy's assassination or the "age" of Reagan.

Between the politics and the classic pop lies a somewhat-rambling, light litany of life lessons (divorce, record-company perfidy, loss of a loved one, etc.), each one graced by, yes, a "morning after" (McGovern's chart-topper topped the show). To be honest, McGovern's story isn't all that compelling (nor is she a gifted raconteur; nothing really builds over the course of the evening). But her anecdotes are amusing enough, and she has a solid sense of humor and the timing of a gifted comedienne (a little medley of "da-doo-ron-ron" nonsense was a particular charmer). In some basic way, she's just good company. Particularly on a long and winding road.

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