Take Me… Prisoner!

Prisoner of Love: An Autobiographical Cabaret reviewed by Natalie Lifson Love is an emotion that makes you feel both powerful and vulnerable at once. It is for this very reason that nobody could have performed  Prisoner of Love,  a cabaret show arranged by the late Barry Levitt and directed by Peter Napolitano at Urban Stages Theater, better than Andrea Bell Wolff. A tiny woman who couldn’t have been taller than 5’2, she commanded a presence as soon as she parted the curtains to step foot on the stage. Immediately, the packed audience stopped their chatter and fell silent. As the music, flawlessly performed by pianist Matthew Martin Ward, violinist Rob Thomas, percussionist Howie Gordon, and bassist Saadi Zain, picked up, Andrea’s voice echoed throughout the venue, just as powerful and vulnerable as the air she gave off upon entering the room. Andrea, who performed on Broadway and national tours for Hello, Dolly! ,  George M!, Li’l Abner, Grease, Little Shop of Horrors,  and  Funny Girl , as well as a variety of other theatre credits, certainly lives up to her reputation as a versatile singer and actress. Throughout the performance, Andrea made it abundantly clear that  Prisoner of Love  was more than just a cabaret show­ it was an autobiographical journey of her love life from her time as a 16 year old on the national tour of  Hello, Dolly flitting from man to man to her marriage to her current supportive husband. Between her songs, she shared stories and anecdotes with the charismatic charm people have come to expect from her, such as the time she went to a psychic about her romantic problems and the time she destroyed her cheating ex-­boyfriend’s belongings while he was on vacation with his ex­wife. The songs themselves were carefully chosen to fit into Andrea’s timeline of stories; by connecting the songs through theme, Wolff was able to explore a wide variety of genres in  Prisoner of Love , ranging from traditional musical theater to bluesy to pop. Late music director Barry Levitt, who Urban Stage’s Winter Rhythms Festival is dedicated to, artfully rearranged songs such as James Brown’s  This is a Man’s World and Rihanna’s  Man Down  into powerful musical theatre­style pieces that perfectly complemented Wolff’s voice. The song choices particularly highlighted Wolff’s versatility, both in voice and in acting abilities. Andrea Bell Wolff demonstrated her ability to belt just as well as she can sing softly. Similarly, à la Kristen Chenoweth, she was able to appear just as sweet during some songs as she was able to appear harsh in others. Throughout the cabaret, she wore her emotions on her sleeve and completely immersed herself not only in the songs, but in the individual personas she developed for each song. Song and story topics ranged from young infatuation to vengeful murder, but Wolff managed to seamlessly shift from comedic acting to tragic and back again in an instant on multiple occasions. With her fantastic performance in  Prisoner of Love , Wolff made abundantly clear that she is more than just a singer, more than just an actress, but a storyteller as well, and a fantastic one at that. Apart from Andrea Bell Wolff’s overwhelming talent, Napolitano’s excellent directorial decisions were icing on the cake. Through very few additions to the stage, Napolitano managed to transform a blackbox theatre into a warm, intimate venue that perfectly reflected the performance. The colorful projectors on the back of the stage reflected the spirits of the individual songs and only served to immerse the audience in the emotional artistic atmosphere. Beyond that, the placement of the musicians around Wolff in a semi­circle, which made is seem as though she were surrounded on all sides save for a significant amount of blank space in the center, served to highlight her and make an already intimate venue feel even more intimate. Finally, Andrea’s physical presence, as directed by Napolitano, significantly contributed to the excellent performance. At no point did Andrea stay in one spot and simply sing. Rather, she […]

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Jimmy Dean is back at the Five & Dime in an engaging showing, thanks to Regeneration

Regeneration Theater’s production of COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, is scoring high marks on everything from Show-Score to OnStageBlog, who mentioned the fine work done by Lynnsey Lewis and Chris Clark. During their dark night, we caught up with select members to meet them before they resume their performance run.  Tickets on […]

Read More Jimmy Dean is back at the Five & Dime in an engaging showing, thanks to Regeneration

VINCENT SAGONA speaks on Uta Hagen, F. Murray Abraham, Soundview Summer, and teaching around the world.

VINCENT SAGONA, like his co-star, BRIAN RICHARDSON, has been a professional actor of stage and screen for more than three decades. He also shares his wisdom\m as a drama teacher at a Professional Children’s School for nearly two of those decades. He has appeared in numerous distinguished productions of some highly recognized works, like Happy […]

Read More VINCENT SAGONA speaks on Uta Hagen, F. Murray Abraham, Soundview Summer, and teaching around the world.

Veteran actor, Brian Richardson, discusses what it means to be an artist.

BRIAN RICHARDSON opens this week in the principle role of Jack in Soundview Summer, a daring work that takes a personal look at the after-effects of nuclear exposure. Richardson, whose credits include Harlem Summer Shakespeare in Macbeth, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, As You Like It; as well as sojourns at Bristol Riverside Theatre, Barter Theatre, Metropolitan Playhouse, […]

Read More Veteran actor, Brian Richardson, discusses what it means to be an artist.