Maxine Linehan - What Would Petula Do?
34 West 22nd Street
Musical Director/Arranger/Pianist: Ryan Shirar
January 18, 2016
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
What would Petula do if she were sitting in the Metropolitan Room listening to Maxine Linehan's extraordinary one-night only tribute? Petula, a 1960's pop star (and a lot more), would probably reminisce, remembering pop songs that sold 68 million recordings and her long film and theater career. Above all, what Petula would do is thrill to the talents of Maxine Linehan.
"What Would Petula Do?" is what Linehan was asking as she bopped on stage, looking like an blossoming flower child in a mod '60's mini, hair pulled into a pony tail and long bangs. And her answer? She'd slip into tight boots with chunky heels and walk to a swingin' beat "from Piccadilli to Waterloo 'cause that's what Petula would do." This frothy tune sets up that turbulent and tuneful decade as recorded by Petula Clark and revisited by Maxine Linehan with updated twists and striking arrangements by Ryan Shirar.
Linehan, an Irish-born lass uses her trained acting and singing skills to present songs like well-crafted mini-musicals, leading you on a journey. Her facile facial and physical gestures add to Linehan's bell-line vocal tone with a thrilling tremolo that adds great warmth. With astute volume control, phrasing and natural audience communication, she interprets the songs with taste and confidence, effortlessly moving from wistful whisper to a resolute belt.
However, it is Linehan's patter that offers information about the truly long career of Petula Clark, beginning during World War II, when as a teenager she earned acclaim on British radio, concert stages and entertaining troops. Clark recorded for 60 years, thus far, and went into an acting career on screen and stage that still continues.
Directed by Scott Siegel, the songbook, especially the theatre selections, illustrates how she fearlessly dives under the surface and emerges with emotive new takes. Linehan's memorable rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "With One Look" is purposeful and desperate at the same time. (Clark has played Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard more than any actress to date.) Also outstanding is "Tell Me It's Not True," a heartbreaker from Blood Brothers, a show Clark did on the West End and Broadway. Linehan's "Old Devil Moon" is sensuously moonstruck, a reminder of the film Clark made with Fred Astaire, Finian's Rainbow.
Linehan's respect and long-time admiration for the music of Petula Clark produced a show with an outta sight rhythm band that's pure fun with pop favorites like, "I Know a Place," "Call Me" and "Don't Sleep in the Subway." A rousing rendition of, "Love, This is My Song" brought her a standing ovation and the mega-hit, "Downtown," ended the show with a second ovation. What gives the show a stamp of gravitas, however, are the strong theater songs and with energetic pop songs and meaningful theater material, Maxine Linehan is a winner all around.