Simon Green: Traveling Light
nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
December 19, 2009
Actor-singer Simon Green, with arranger David Shrubsole at the piano, has brought a delicious musical confection to 59E59 Theater's E Cafe space, as part of this season's Brits Off Broadway series. The performance is a brisk 70 minute celebration of songs and poetry, all loosely connected under the theme of world travel.
Green has a fine voice and is musically very accomplished, but what impresses the most here is his interpretations of the lyrics and verse, always with an emotional depth of understanding and nuance that completely engages us. Okay, he is a charming fellow, this Brit. But of course charm only goes so far—you really have to deliver the goods to hold a New York audience's attention. And deliver he does. He sells some songs in fact in ways you might not expect, giving startling fresh interpretations to the words of diverse works ranging from Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods" to Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning." We get songs by Leslie Bricusse, Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Noel Coward, and many more. He even offers the Lennon and McCartney classic "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which frankly I thought I knew—but Green actually illuminates it in ways I didn't know were there. Whether happy songs or sad songs, wistful or energetic, he has a way of digging into the text that takes us along for a wonderful journey of discovery. Yes, that may seem trite, but like any really good cabaret singer, Green is in the moment of each piece as he shares with us what seems fresh and new.
The poetry by Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, and others—don't worry, this is by far a musical event—helps to connect the songs. The dramaturgy on the whole makes complete sense, as Green and Shrubsole have constructed a throughline that propels us from one song to the next. There is also time for some comic moments and even a little audience repartee.
Shrubsole's expert playing is a perfect accompaniment to Green. There is an art to being a good accompanist and Shrubsole is such an artist. He helps Green keep things moving while always being there in support with his consummate skills.
Simon Green: Traveling Light is a pleasant, warm, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant performance that will leave you with a warm fuzzy on these cold days. It is time well spent and highly recommended.