Review: Melanie Brook by Theater Jones

Review: Melanie Brook by Theater Jones image

Who Am I?

New York performer Melanie Brook answers that question in story and song in the Reid Cabaret Theatre at Casa Mañana.

by Joel Leggett
published Friday, February 15, 2019 on
Moving to New York City to follow your dreams…what could go wrong?
Melanie Brook, the latest cabaret performer to grace the Reid Cabaret Theatre at Casa Mañana, answers that question while proving that she is one-of-a-kind. At the core of the show is the question, “Who is Melanie Brook?”
From the performance viewed on Wednesday, we can tell you that Melanie Brook is a gifted singer and actress who is early in her career on Broadway. She takes the audience with her on this journey by reading passages from her diaries in between songs. I was uncertain about this approach at first, but it turns out to be charming, funny and sometimes brutally honest. And it works extremely well for showcasing both her singing and acting.
Melanie starts by describing the results of her first auditions. If you think dating is cruel, auditions are even worse. She is told she isn’t pretty enough to be a lead, then she isn’t odd enough to be a character actor. Next Brooks takes us to the world of dating in New York City. She is thrilled that her dating is going so much better than her auditions. We then discover her date can sing the “Dolly Levi” parts from Hello, Dolly! better than she can. She thinks this is fantastic while the audience laughs. Later she discovers that maybe the boyfriend isn’t quite what she anticipated.
All through these stories we are surprised by an eclectic mix of pop music (Celine Dion, Ariana Grande, Whitney Houston, and others) alongside songs from newer musicals. Broadway fanatics will love her medley of songs from the “Do Not Sing” list from a big summer stock audition. It shows off the skills of the band and her power and versatility as a singer.
The band is led on keys by music director and arranger Brian Russell Carey; on drums is Austin Allen, with Mike Medina on bass. All excellent musicians, they keep the evening moving along and match Brook’s eccentric delivery and timing.
After a quick intermission we are taken back to NYC and the auditions are going much better. She books her first big role, as “Maureen” in Rent, and audiences see why that casting works in a fun duet with Carey, who plays a fine guitar as well as piano. Her newfound success in her professional life is crossed with getting rid of the first boyfriend, getting back to dating and finally meeting the right man. Near the end of the show, she sings “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman, which is normally done as a huge anthem. This time it is done with just her and Carey on guitar. “This is Me” sums up Melanie Brook well: she is unique, charming, quirky, and humorous. Her voice and style may not be for everyone, but that is kind of the point.
If you are looking for a fun date night for Valentine’s weekend, get to the Reid Cabaret Theatre at Casa Mañana. You’ll find an entertaining evening of cabaret and a chance to laugh at the dating disasters of others while watching a very winsome performance.