Voice 2014 presented by the M Center and Genesis Repertory
reviewed by Sander Gusinow
Typically a showcase isn’t worthy of a review, but when half the performances leave you balling like a three-year-old, it’s far from a typical showcase. Voices 2014, Brooklyn’s M Center for the Arts’ annual concert, is a moving melange of song, comedy, and personal odysseys. Under the theatrical guise of an ‘American Idol’ style audition line, the M Center singers audition for a nameless (and charmingly jaded) auditioner, all the while scraping with each other and sharing their reasons for becoming a performer. Some of theses stories warm the heart, others break it to pieces. No matter the tale, they’re ardently earnest, a testament to founder Mary Elizabeth Micari’s philosophy: Art and life are one in the same; to hope and heal in performance cures the ills of our day-to-day.
I’ve always criticized companies that throw together plays as a vernier for showcasing their members, but Voices is the admirable opposite; a string of showcase performances with a uniting theme that, over the course of the evening, coalesce into something a play. Each performer’s story makes them the lovable star of their own mini-musical. I would feel ill at ease disclosing the exact nature of some of these truthful tales, but the power these stories bring to the stage is nothing short of magical. While most modern musicals struggle to endear us to just one person, Voices effortlessly connects with eleven.
And the singing? In short, they rock it. Some performers are soulful vibrato-prone heartthrobs, (Mario Claudio) some are fluttery Chenoweth-esque fine China (Adele Wendt) and one’s a powerhouse belter just plain ready for a commercial debut. (Isabella Sirota).
Reems could be written on everyone who took the stage, but suffice to say, the show was a universe away from any disappointments.
It was the first time on stage for some of the singers. But despite the occasional stammer, what was most astonishing was the fact the high notes, those unreachable money notes that confound even seasoned veterans, seemed to the performers the most comfortable. They bathe in the power of their most vulnerable moments; as if they are most confident at the very height of their own vulnerability. These are singers electrified by the bearing of soul; Enough to remind you why we bothered to invent art in the first place. Yes, commercialism abounds in present-day New York theatre, but seems Mary Elizabeth Micari has gone to 44th st. to remind us all what they’ve forgotten two blocks over.
Photo Credit: Sara Lopez, Christopher Sirota (WrightGroupNY)