The Midnight Company’s 'Just One Look' is an entertaining tribute to a musical icon
By Michelle Kenyon
Linda Ronstadt is a musical legend. That's no question, considering all the accolades she's received over the years, including several Grammy Awards, a Kennedy Center Honor, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now, she's become the subject of The Midnight Company's latest production, written and directed by Joe Hanrahan and starring Kelly Howe as Ronstadt. On stage in a cabaret-like setting at the Blue Strawberry Showroom & Lounge, the show is an entertaining and informative look at Ronstadt's life and career, and especially her music.
The show is presented in an interview format, with Hanrahan as a music journalist named Lenny Anderson, who doesn't even attempt to hide his affection for his subject. Howe, as Ronstadt, answers Lenny's questions about her life, career, and attitude toward music, relationships, politics, and more--but mostly, she sings. If you're a fan of Ronstadt's, as I am, you'll know most if not all of the songs, from Ronstadt's first hit with The Stone Poneys, "Different Drum", through her country-pop-folk-rock years of arena tours with songs like "Long, Long Time", "You're No Good", "When Will I Be Loved?" and more, to her later years trying out radically different genres such as jazz-pop classics, operetta, and Mexican music in honor of her father. Howe sings the songs well, showing off an impressive vocal range and versatility, reminiscent of Ronstadt herself. She doesn't sound exactly like Ronstadt, but I wasn't expecting that. There's only one Linda Ronstadt, but Howe does an excellent job of singing in Ronstadt's style, and her mannerisms are similar to Ronstadt's, as well, from what I've seen in interviews and the excellent documentary "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice," which I highly recommend if you're a fan.
Hanrahan, for his part, does a fine job conducting the interview, even though his character can come across as intrusive at times, and he seems to be trying to do a British accent, but it's not consistent at all, and disappears entirely for most of the show. There's also an excellent band backing Howe as Ronstadt, led by music director Curt Landes on piano, and featuring Tom Maloney on guitar and bass, and Mark Rogers on percussion and backing vocals.
This show is an ideal fit for its venue, as well. The Blue Strawberry is known primarily for hosting cabaret shows, and it provides a lively atmosphere for this production. I had never seen a show at this venue before, and I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to seeing more productions there.
Overall, "Just One Look" is a memorable, entertaining musical tribute to one of pop/rock music's most celebrated voices. It's also an excellent showcase for Howe, who has an impressive voice of her own and plays Linda Ronstadt convincingly. Especially if you are a fan of Ronstadt's, this is a production well worth checking out.
Performances of “Just One Look” continue Wednesday evenings at the Blue Strawberry Showroom & Lounge through March 29, with additional performances April 12 through 14. For more information, visit midnightcompany.com.