Bloody Bloody Lennie  Watts

Lennie Watts takes no emotional prisoners in his new show, Bloody Bloody Lennie Watts running at the Metropolitan Room with two more shows left on Sunday, June 17 and Wednesday, June 27. It is suggested that you reserve early. In this case, that is not just a promo come on.

Most dictionaries describe the word vortex as a state of affairs likened to a whirlpool for violent activity or irresistible force. Others imply it has something drawing into its powerful current, etc. In this show, there is a vortex of emotional roller-coasters riding currents that go up and down; all allowing for some of Watts's best cabaret work to date. The title is open for interpretation. I don't want to ruin it by saying more. But, it is his strongest show. It's funnier and more poignant than the others. With a few nips and tucks, this could play larger venues like off- Broadway and find an audience waiting for something extraordinary – and real.

Speaking of real, like Baby Jane Dexter and other truth-tellers in cabaret, Watts dares to go that extra step and open his soul amid some riotous anecdotes that had the room holding their sides with laughter. It's his most personal show that touches on variations of addictions, demons and loss; territories he has not delved into very deep in previous outings. With brilliant musical director/arranger Stephen Ray Watkins at the piano leading the powerhouse band with three backup singers (including Lorinda Lisitzka on harmonica,) this is a very big, at times loud, show with something for everyone.

Opening with the Kenny Loggins powerful It's About Time, incorporating gospel-esque and folk/pop rhythms into the mix, the audience was cheering loud as some strong statements unfolded like, … I may be drowning but I ain't dead yet! This frantic musical workout between band, backups and singer set the stage for what lies ahead. And, it was solid and grew in intensity balanced by the funny stuff which he has such a flair for. One wondered where it could all go after such a send-off. Exercising a lot of self-control, Watts continued the upbeat pace with the Janet Jackson hit, Control (Harris lll -Lewis-Jackson) and the ceiling rocked as he declared in song that this time it would be “my way.” An early centerpiece began with a moving delivery of Stephen Schwartz's Snapshots (from his Reluctant Pilgrim album (and also the name of his newest theatrical memoir.) This seemed to open a door to the crux of Watt's show; snapshots of his personal life and times with this ditty about the rites of passage. It all began a series of reinventions in the direction that began with a bang and sprinkled with a few softer, more personalized series of musical vignettes would pop up between the intelligent joking around and tongue-in-cheek moments such as Schradenfruede from Avenue Q about laughing at people's foibles. Comparing the sublime to the ridiculous in today's world of Facebook and social media was an unparalleled laugh riot with an undertone of failing at the bottom being as rough as failing at the top. Clever stuff.

A rarely heard, profound ballad, Standing Knee Deep In A River (McDill-Jones-Lee,) about … we go knee deep in the river …. and we're dying of thirst … created a special moment that was a serious highlight as was Lionel Richie's perennial love song, Still. Changing the tone again, Watts lead into more serious, topical banter about various addictions that was both meaningful and sincere. This came from a personalized place that hit home. It also led into the evening's blockbuster cacophony of noise that had the tech engineer turn everything up full blast – on My Favorite Things (of all things.) While this discordance of sound may have been hard on the eardrums, the unfolding message embodied an out of control addict who doesn't hear anything but himself - was ingenious. This slot, worth expanding, is exactly what could get this show into a larger venue. It was a huge risk that in lesser hands could have failed. Not here.

There's a lot more that goes into making this show the success it is. This observer has told more than planned already. For now, this will be a show that will be talked about long after the lights come down. It might also be a showcase that can find that other life – outside the confines of a night club. Few shows in recent years have had moments of such brilliance. Wait till you see what I've held back! Go!

The outstanding band consisted of Matt Wigton on bass guitar, Tim Lykins on drums, Peter Calo doing a superb job on guitar licks and flawless backup singers Tanya Holt, Wendy Russell and, as previously mentioned, a special nod to Lorinda Lisitzka for her solo turns on harmonica (who knew?)

 

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0 #1 JP 2012-07-15 18:11
Beautiful Show, rare, true, real, highly recommended.
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