Lots of people consider themselves performers, but let’s be honest for a moment. Some of these self-proclaimed “entertainers”—and I hate to sound cruel—are much better suited to an occupation which require neither singing nor dancing. Others have a pleasant enough presence which could be considered “functional.” Then there is two time Tony award nominee Vivian Reed, a diva with such jaw-dropping skills that she earns her own category; one in which we’ll call “remarkably astonishing.”
Since April, Reed has been thrilling long-time fans (and newer converts like myself) in her solo show, “Standards & More”. With pianist/conductor William Foster McDaniel, bass player Gary Foote, and Damon Duewhite on drums, she has been setting the Metropolitan Room ablaze with exquisite new interpretations of both well-known and slightly more obscure classics.
Reed kicked off her May 23rd show with a thrilling medley of “Just One of Those Things”, “Almost like Being in Love”, and “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die”. She then slowed things down a tad with a cool and classy version of Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here with You”, a feeling which was graciously reciprocated by her sold-out crowd. “My Funny Valentine” followed. The Rodgers and Hart tune has been recreated countless times, but Reed’s version is by far the most beautiful that I have ever heard. She paired it with Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”, and featured her guest cellist for the evening, Erik Jacobson. Her usual cellist,Karen Poleshuck, had a conflict and was unable to accompany her. Reed shared how she found Jacobson playing in the subway and recruited him-a victory she credited to Divine intervention.
Reed has a sound and sturdy foundation of spirituality running through her veins. She perfectly prefaced George Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with a humorous tale of skepticism about television preachers, but later expressed her gratitude for the many blessings in her life.
Bubblin’ Brown Sugar, the 1976 Broadway revue put Reed on the map and earned her a Tony nod. She revived selections from that show, including a medley of “Take the A Train”, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”, and the show-stopping, “Sweet Georgia Brown”.
Other highlights included a fun duet of an original McDaniel number, “Bluer Than You” with Raun Ruffin, a medley of “Up Where We Belong” and the Jackie Wilson classic “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, and an unplugged, slowed down version of “More” by Riz Ortolani and Nina Oliviero.
To see Vivian Reed live is an unforgettable experience. The gymnastics of her voice are a sound to behold, but she never overdoes it. She is a captivating performer who knows exactly what her audience wants and she not only gives it to them-she wraps it in vocal gold and sprinkles glitter on top.
Initially slated to run through July 21st, her engagement at the Metropolitan Room has been extended through November 21st. Beach lovers can enjoy her live on Fire Island on Saturday July 31st when she performs with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks from HBO’s Broadway Empire fame. There are many upcoming opportunities to catch this treasure in concert and if you miss out, you’ve missed out.
VIVIAN REED will sing “Standards & More” at The Metropolitan Room (34 West 22nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues) on Friday, June 17 at 9:30 PM; Thursday, July 21 at 7:00 PM; Monday, September 26 at 9:30 PM; and Thursday, November 10 at 9:30 PM. Tickets are $35 each with an additional two-drink minimum. VIP Packages with open bar and more are also available. Please visit www.MetropolitanRoom.com for tickets and information