Cabaret Review: Erin Driscoll in ‘Get Happy, the Songs of Harold Arlen’

Erin Driscoll in ‘Get Happy.’ Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Get happy!  It’s impossible not to wear a delighted grin, when watching and listening to gifted soprano and cabaret singer, Erin Driscoll.  I had the pleasure of attending her performance with the Signature Theater this week, and found her to be warm, genuine, and eager.

Ms. Driscoll has something special she wants to share with us, and that is a well-deserved appreciation for songwriter Harold Arlen, the composer of such well-known favorites as “Stormy Weather,” “Paper Moon,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,”and even “Over the Rainbow,” which was voted the number one song of the twentieth century.  And yet, as Ms. Driscoll laments, so few people know his name and tend to mis-attribute his songs, which was apparently the case even when he was alive!

…she never drops the energy when she sings…not for a second.

Ms. Driscoll did him much justice with her performance, interspersing interesting stories that chronicled his life throughout the pieces she sang with heart and fresh flavor.  One of the reasons she may stand out is the timbre of her obviously high soprano instrument, somewhat comparable to the likes of much-admired Kristin Chenoweth.  This does not dissuade her from tackling songs that have typically been heard in, or written for, lower, “fuller” registers.  In some places, it is clear that this is challenging, when she comes down briefly into the lowest registers for a note here and there or speaks after having sung a particularly taxing song.  In others, however, Ms. Driscoll will surprise you; her fun sense of audacity and attitude lend an unexpected power, and she really lets us see the fullness of her musicianship as well as dramatic talent when she sings “Accentuate the Positive,” “Down with Love,” and “Paper Moon.”  Regardless of the “ease” of the song, she never drops the energy when she sings…not for a second.

I think Ms. Driscoll can show us more of that side of her.  Her happiness and love of the music of Harold Arlen is infectious, but in places, her beautiful smile, bright expressions, and utter delight contrast with the content of the songs, which she presents as the young ingénue instead of the mature woman with the life experience to back it up.  I attribute this to her delightful, beautiful personality and her true, genuine fervor for a man who has obviously not been appreciated enough these days, and I love that she built a program around sharing her love of him with us.  Erin Driscoll is one daring soprano, and I say you go, girl!  I would love to hear her fresh spin on many more beloved classics of musical theatre, and can’t wait to see her in a full-length show.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

To enjoy other cabaret performances by top-notch local and national performers, be sure to check out the Signature Theatre’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret series from now until July 28th.