“Ryan is like a master class in singing…truly magnificent…her dynamics deserve to be shared with the world!…If you get the chance to see her perform anywhere, anytime-take it”
“Ryan’s interpretive span is remarkable…A compelling evening of musical excellence…a mesmerizing performer, moving smoothly from larger than life drama to small, captivating emotional moments”
“Every once in a while a voice comes along that makes you write your congressman to have it declared a national treasure. Joan Ryan possesses such a voice”
“Joan Ryan has a voice that soars through the air like a crack of new sun… she’s a trumpet, she’s an angel, she’s the music that makes me dance.”
“Charismatic…Ryan’s a performer of power and sensitivity whose act has polish, taste and a distinctive flavor”
“Can send a chill down the spine. The lady has loads of talent”
“The rare opportunity to see Joan Ryan in concert is a joy in itself” Entertainment Today “Joan Ryan is brilliant”
“While watching Joan Ryan sing, it is entirely possible to think that there is no person alive for whom singing brings more joy. Speaking logically, there are certainly many people who derive as much happiness from singing, but when engaged in the act of watching Joan Ryan sing, all logic is rendered useless, because Joan Ryan singing is nothing but absolute bliss. It is impossible to watch her perform without smiling, without being made happy, or without falling a little bit in love, a fact made clear by the throng of admirers who packed The Green Room 42 when she made her debut there over the weekend.
A longtime resident of Los Angeles, Ms. Ryan tells her audience that she recently relocated to New York City, and the combination of being in Manhattan and being on the cabaret stages of NYC has made her feel like she is finally home. She certainly looks at home in her elegant refinery, her six-piece band behind her, and her microphone in hand, which is only natural because she has spent her life on stages sharing a wondrously rangey voice with awestruck audiences who might not believe that such incredible power could come from so tiny a lady. Rather like a porcelain doll, Joan Ryan stands before the crowd, smiling innocently with her delicate features and girlish whisper of a speaking voice, telling stories of her life, and then she opens her mouth to sing and a tsunami of sound fills the room, and the sound is a most beautiful one, crystal clear, as pure and crisp as a newly fallen powder of alpine snow. It is, in fact, quite possible for people witnessing Ryan for the first time to be a bit shocked, which is part of the fun of being at a Joan Ryan show, and Saturday night was no exception.
Ms. Ryan’s Green Room 42 performance is a new act for the star of the cult musical Ruthless, and she and director Will Nunziata make sure that it is one filled with laughter and joy, clearly a reflection of her current state of mind. From the moment she appears at the back of the house, Ryan makes sure that her audience knows what’s in store for them with an arrangement “Feeling Good” that is blissfully different than the one everyone in the world has been singing for a few years. Chic, stylish, and oh-so-confident, Ryan weaves her way through the crowd and onto the stage, and for some sixty minutes, she wows the crowd with one spectacular arrangement after another of songs we have all heard before but might as well be hearing for the first time. Indeed, the entire show is like watching someone be born, or, in this case, re-born. There is a newness, a freshness about Ms. Ryan, evocative of someone stepping into the light for the first time; it is a nebulous mood that is cast over the room because all know her long history as a performer, but this is an artist who seems newly baptized by some mission statement informed by an all-encompassing combination of grounding confidence, enthralling risk, and irrepressible defiance. So bull at the gate is Ryan’s forward motion during the show that at times her overflowing energy gets ahead of her and she loses a word or a phrase in her song, and her besotted audience stays with her, lovingly forgiving the mistake because this new, funny, excitable Joan is such a joy to behold. Indeed, one of the most exciting parts of Saturday night’s performance was watching Joan Ryan, only four songs away from the end of her show, turn to guitarist Steve Bargonetti and ask if they aren’t completely off track, only to start “The Way He Makes Me Feel” over again, the second attempt at the song becoming more rich and replete with emotion and interpretive skill than the aborted first attempt. To see a musical artist so devoted to her craft and dedicated to her audience bring her personal humanity to her work is a gift beyond compare. eaking personally, this writer would rather watch a hundred singers own that a song isn’t working and start the number over, than watch one perfect performance by the world’s greatest singer who is reading off of an iPad. When Joan Ryan is onstage, there is no iPad, no music stand full of cheat sheets she is up on the high wire, taking all the risks, with only the exceptional net of support that is her band and her director.
Mr. Nunziata has taken great care of Ms. Ryan for this outing, adapting his directing style to suit her performance style in a successful effort to create a show that is authentic to her. Nunziata, a director whose nightclub work is often lauded for having a theatrical feel that includes a storyline arc for the artist to take, has recognized that Joan Ryan has spent her life on huge concert stages and her gift is in bringing the songs that she loves to audiences that want nothing more than to sit in a room and bask in the glory of her four octaves. The change from big venue to small being enough for any one artist to undertake, Nunziata imposes no arc on Ms. Ryan but, instead, directs her as a concert performer, helping her to create a good old-fashioned nightclub act, the kind one might expect from a legendary lady of song like Julie London or Eydie Gorme. No storyline is necessary because Joan Ryan brings a new story with each new song, immersing herself in the soulfulness of “Anyplace I Hang My Hat is Home” or the driving force that is “Some People,” aided by Ron Abel’s breathtaking arrangements. By allowing and assisting Joan Ryan in her quest to make each song its’ own entity, Nunziata has given the jewel a setting in which she can shine as genuinely as possible, playing not only to her strengths but to her mission statement as an artist. It is a wise and elegant choice to make, for both artists.
Particular standouts for this writer on an evening filled with musical delicacies were the comedy feast of “Belt-aholic” and a stunning “I Don’t Want to Know” with a hypnotic arrangement that suited Ms. Ryan like a velvet glove enclosed by a baguette bracelet. No moment in the show, though, could be as intimate, as heartfelt, as personal as Ms. Ryan’s encore, written by Billy Joel and arranged by Nunziata and musical director Phil Reno. It was a perfect way to end a night of music painstakingly structured to show audiences who Joan Ryan is, what she is about, and how deeply the music lives within her. When an artist puts his or her self out on the line in so open and vulnerable and eloquent a way, there is only thing for a witness from the stands to respond: Welcome home, Joan.”
Did You Say You Love Belters? Joan Ryan Is For You!
“Looking at this sweet and pretty charmer with a lilting soprano voice, you’d be hard pressed to think that singer-actress Joan Ryan has a four octave range until she easily proves otherwise. A recent L.A. to N.Y. transplant, Joan is filled with funny stories about her upward climb in Hollywood — as the notes reached explosive levels so did her presence in film and theater (L.A. premier of the hit musical ‘Ruthless’ among others!) When a High C wasn’t enough, she went for the D above and then moved on to conquer the E natural.
Joan showed us what it’s all about at Birdland Theatre on May 16, with her musical director Ron Abel and unforgettable band that included Sean Harkness on guitar, Steve Doyle on bass, Dave Mann on sax/flute and Rex Benincasa on drums & percussion.
She covered a gamut of songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein beginning with a slow “Shall We Dance” that quickly morphed into R & B; Sondheim’s “There Won’t Be Trumpets” and Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” tinged with Latin rhythm as well as a bluesy spectacular version of Mercer/Arlen’s “Anyplace I Hang My Hat is Home.” Her acting skills were front and center with “It Will Never Be That Way Again” (Joel Paley/Marvin Laird – from the musical Ruthless – you can hear Joan on the original album).
Along the way, it was evident why Ryan is known for her Belt… which she has now immortalized in song “Beltaholic” (Stephen Witkin/Joan Ryan/Andrew MacBean) – clever, funny lyrics that include Rock n’ Roll and had the audience roaring.
To prove she’s more than a BIG BELT, however, Ryan brought done the volume to a caressing sweet sensitivity on favorites “Move On”/”Meadowlark” (Stephen Sondheim/Stephen Schwartz).
Good friend Joanna Gleason (with whom Ryan bonded many years ago in a dressing room talking about children] appeared as special guest and they duetted a loving harmonic arrangement (by Ron Abel) of Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” blending Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.”
Lest I forget, she wowed the audience with Ricky Lee Jones’ story song – words, words, words…”Danny’s All Star Joint” – what a tale!
I don’t know when Joan Ryan will be doing this show again, but I sure hope it will be soon as everything about it is win, win, win!”
Joan Ryan and a Few Good Men” at the Cinegrill
“Joan Ryan More Than Gets By. The singer invites friends to perform with her at Cinegrill. They’re good. She’s better.
Singer Joan Ryan brought some companions along for her Wednesday night opening at Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill. “A Few Good Men” is the way she billed her guest artists: Michael Orland, musical director for “American Idol,” composer David Friedman and musical theater star Sean McDermott.
Their contributions to the show ranged from McDermott’s dramatic rendering of “Piece of Sky” (from Yentl”) and Friedman’s hilarious “My Simple Christmas Wish” to Orland’s brief, supportive piano accompaniment on a single tune.
As good as the “Few Good Men” were, however, Ryan could easily have carried the show on her own. A musical-theater veteran with an impressive vocal instrument and far-reaching interpretive skills, she was a mesmerizing performer, moving smoothly from larger-than-life drama to small, captivating emotional moments.
Ryan’s program extended well beyond the Great American Songbook repertoire that continues to dominate many cabaret performances. Choosing from an eclectic array of more contemporary sources, she found inspiration in Lennon & McCartney (“In My Life”), Leonard Bernstein (“Somewhere”) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (“As If We Never Said Goodbye”), as well as such offbeat tunes as Christine Lavin’s whimsical “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind (Sushi).”
Each number was rendered with exquisite understanding of the music and the lyrics, bringing both elements together to penetrate into the heart of her material. In doing so, Ryan’s interpretive span was remarkable.
She sang “Alto’s Lament’ (by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler) with a sardonic understanding of how it feels to be the singer who never gets to sing the melody.
Dramatically shifting gears, she was insightful in a very different fashion in darker tunes such as “It Will Never Be That Way Again” (from “Ruthless”) and “Bring Him Home” (from “Les Miserables”).
A compelling evening of musical excellence.”
Singer Joan Ryan Blows the Roof Off the Federal
“Singer/actress Joan Ryan made a rare appearance with a brand new show An Evening with Joan Ryan at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal on Sunday, July 28 prior to a cross country tour which includes 54 Below in New York. This lady, who has an entire comedic medley labeling herself a belta-holic, remains a consummate vocalist, one of the best there is. She possesses an incredibly powerful range, has a glowing personality that will not quit, and knows how to work a cabaret room, literally from back to front, side to side with superior direction from Andrew MacBean.
She’s accessible, a quality so important for a singer, and yet so few newbees understand what that means. Ryan’s is like a master class on how to sing cabaret, and all singers could profit from the experience she unintentionally provides. She simply sings from the heart. If we could just wrap her up to keep close by…well, there’s her fab CD, Joan Ryan, which will have to suffice.
Backing Ryan was brilliant Todd Schroeder at the piano, and Robert Kyle on sax and flute, Tony Mandracchia on guitar and Tim Christensen on bass. The evening offered a casual stroll through Ryan’s life and career origins, auditions, roles and personal glimpses of her parents, meeting her husband Howard and her daughters, with an emphasis on the latter and when, as a mother, to let go. Musical highlights included: her great entrance from the rear of the room with “Edge of Glory” followed by “Journey to the Past” onstage. There followed a gorgeous rendition of “Why Can’t I Forget?” and then the down home reliable “Lucky Old Sun” dedicated to her father, which she used to sing with him as a little girl. Of course, she featured the beautifully arranged “Shall We Dance?” from her award-winning CD, the lead song from her show Ruthless, and two favorites”Move On” by Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz’ “Meadowlark”, which was as great as I have ever heard it. An unforgettable moment came with “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis, which she sang right in the middle of the audience at the bar. Talk about up close and personal! You could feel the emotion, as Ryan told a heartfelt story about not being able to sleep, thinking about a little homeless soul that has made a shelter under a bridge near her home.
From her career highlights, the aforementioned medley about being a belta-holic stood out with comic gems sparkling all over it. She sang her first failed LA audition of “C’Mon, Get Happy!” in the key of C, “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide, where her voice went up an octave or two, and then “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line, where it hit E natural, and a final “Rockaybe Baby” which she sang to her daughter as a lullaby – “My daughter’s going to need a lot of therapy!” She concluded the medley with the glorious “Not with Trumpets” from Anyone Can Whistle. Her encore “Feels Like Home” was so well received with a standing ovation, that Ryan did a very unusual second encore “On a Clear Day”.
Joan Ryan is truly magnificent. I sincerely hope that Broadway Records will record her show when it gets to 54 Below. Her dynamics as a singer deserve to be shared with the world. Every song she sings is a three act play, and it goes to prove what I have always said, that a great singer is first and foremost a great actress. Joan Ryan has both talents in spades.”
“Joan Ryan flew in from her home in Los Angeles last month for the New York premiere of a new independent movie “Hot Guys with Big Guns.” I bought her CD in San Francisco more than a year ago and saw her in a concert there. I met her at the pre party at Don’t Tell Mama” where she sang along with my friend (no relation] Shawn Ryan who is also in the movie, a gay version of the Lethal Weapon series. She’s quite funny in the movie as the mother of one guy. On October 26 she made her first New York cabaret appearance at 54 Below at 11 PM. For a late show on Friday night, the word had been spread: it was a full house!
The act is one of the best I’ve seen this year. With special material by Stephen Witkin and wonderful direction by Andrew Mac Bean, Ryan was backed up with superb musical director/ pianist Todd Schroeder, and some of the finest New York musicians: Sean Harkness on guitar, Peter Flynn on drums and percussion, Mark Lopeman on flute and saxophone, and Tom Hubbard (who’s playing with Marilyn Maye in the same room) on bass. Ryan made her entrance from the back of the room singing a song that had a lyric “Give me a reason why you want to be alone” and on stage sang “Journey to the Past” the theme of the show. From the start the full house was applauding wildly.
Ryan’s show, like other stage performers who appear at 54 Below, is autobiographical and she discusses listening to her parents’ LPs on record players. As a child she would learn every original Broadcast album and she treasures her young trips to Broadway. She saw Yul Brynner in “The King and I” and she sings “Shall We Dance” as a slow ballad before rocking and belting the second chorus. Showing off her classical training, Ryan races up and down the scales with pyrotechnics few singers attempt at the beginning of a show in Witkin’s original piece, “Beltaholic,” a humorous presentation of her incredible range, even jumping up to a high E at one point! The number includes quotes from “Evita,” “A Chorus Line,” and “Candide.”
There are funny tales of her first audition and her problems with boy friends but it pays off when she goes to a party and, frustrated, gets drunk. A man comes on to her and they go out for coffee and suddenly “There Won’t Be Trumpets” leads into Brian Loudermilk and Kait Kerrigan’s “Run Away With Me” and she’s been married now to him for 17 years! There is a follow-up, “Sailing” which was emotional and moving.
An encounter with a homeless person leads into a very meaningful “Bring Him Home.,” Ryan gives it special meaning with her clear lyric soprano. She talks about the thrill of finally getting to play in a big production of “Les Miserables” and has her band do a pit orchestra tuning up.
Ryan’s special guest star was Broadway performer Titus Burgess and together they did Oleta Adams’ “Get Here,” starting softly from opposite sites of the stage, then blending and connecting, moving into big brassy belts, returning to a soft ending! A stunning staging of two performers at their peak!
Spending time as a full time mother to two daughters is a great intro to a role she played on the west coast, Ginger De Marco, in “Restless.” With feather boa, Ryan vamps as the housewife turned siren “It Will Never Be That Way Again.”
Her youngest daughter is a Taylor Swift fan and Ryan used her influence to get third row center seats to Swift’s Los Angeles concert. She even learned all the Swift lyrics! Then her older daughter wanted to go and she gave up her ticket. Instead she got in her car and went to a low down bar which led to a spectacular version of Rickie Lee Jones “Danny’s All Star Café” giving each one of the musicians a great special solo! A standing ovation!
Sondheim’s “Move On” led into a great “Meadowlark,” with Lopeman doing counterpoint on the flute bringing the audience to their feet for the second standing ovation.
Unlike most acts, the encore was a moving ballad “Feels Like Home.” Watch for her return to New York and don’t miss her. In a year of many stellar acts, Joan Ryan ranks among the top! She has a wonderful CD and you can find her on you tube. Her website is www.joanryan.com”
“Joan Ryan delivers a smash portrayal of Tina’s mom…a woman who transforms from mousy housewife to imperious star and back again without the assistance of a fairy godmother or a mutant pumpkin, but with lots of help from her own great timing and well-tuned voice.”
“Joan Ryan is brilliant as the brat’s dazed mother who desperately tries to keep her child off the professional stage but then becomes psychotically trapped in her own theatrical ambitions!”
“The cast is brilliant! Joan Ryan as Judy Denmark demonstrates that she is one of the most gifted actors around.”
“The performance that got me was Joan Ryan as the tempestuous tyke’s mommy whom fate transforms from Stepford wife to Shannen Doherty in jig time.”
“Joan Ryan must go from happy homemaker to egomaniacal star. A range of characterization even Bugs Bunny would be hard-pressed to master. She pulls it off and still looks like she’s having lots of fun!”
“Joan Ryan executes the most difficult role with delightful aplomb…a showstopper!”
“Joan Ryan’s comic transformation is priceless.”
“Joan Ryan is talented.”
“A five-star, 24-karat performer!”
“Joan Ryan is flawless.”
Joan Ryan Brings Down the House at Feinstein’s at the Nikko
“Tucked away in a corner of the Nikko Hotel is Feinstein’s – a 140 seat, intimate nightclub with cozy banquettes and tables graced with crystal chandeliers and a stage on which the Steinway holds pride of place. As the 8 o’clock hour approached, smartly dressed San Franciscans along with tourists in casual wear made their way into the hotel, the buzz in the air clearly indicating that they were here to enjoy the best that San Francisco had to offer. And tonight that “best” was powerhouse performer Joan Ryan.
Here in the City by the Bay for a single performance, she wowed the audience from start to finish in her self-titled show Joan Ryan, Live!, written and directed by Andrew MacBean and with musical direction from Todd Schroeder. The actress (stage, television and film) and singer (credits include the musical Ruthless!, the West Coast premiere of Anyone Can Whistle, Footloose, Triumph of Love, Little Shop of Horrors) made her way from the back of the house singing the Lady Gaga hit “The Edge of Glory,” giving it her signature style that Broadway fans have come to know and love.
Warm and funny, she shared that she got her start right here at The American Conservatory Theatre and, as for her reason for not coming back sooner, she said she’d been stuck in L.A. traffic for the last 30 years. Wrapping each song around stories from her life, the show featured gems like “Shall We Dance,” from the King and I and the poignant “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. Her huge voice filled the room and I could easily see her playing the Palace or the Hollywood Bowl, yet she was able to make each piece feel intimate without compromising her strength in the least.
And I don’t know if the Steven Witkin song “Belt-aholic” was written especially for her, but it might as well have been, so perfect does it showcase her dynamic, 4-octave range. She introduced the song in the familiar AA fashion: Hi, my name is Joan and I’m a belt-aholic….I try and take it one note at a time.” But this belt-aholic is a lost cause and that only meant great things for her audience. Talk about a set of pipes! The humorous song brought forth gales of laughter as well as wild applause as she let loose with a string of high Cs, finishing with a high E at the end and bringing down the house in the process.
The audience was also treated to a surprise duet with Ryan’s longtime friend Karen Glaser, who long ago was responsible for reawakening Ryan’s passion for singing. They did a beautiful rendition of “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz from his musical Wicked. This was followed by “It Will Never Be That Way Again,” from Ruthless! In it she laments the loss of her housewife days, but she knows it’s her fate is to “star in Broadway shows.”
Later the rousing “Danny’s All Star Joint” got things shaking before she led us through Sondheim’s “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George. Of course the lyrics tell the tale of the uncertainty of choosing the life of an artist. “I chose, and my world was shaken-so what?/The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.”? At an early age, Joan Ryan chose life on the stage and the choice was not mistaken. If you get the chance to see her perform anywhere, anytime – take it.”
“Actress-singer Joan Ryan displayed a charismatic versatility that ranged from waif to woman in her recent stint at the Studio One Backlot Theatre. Ryan’s a performer of power and sensitivity whose act has polish, taste and a distinctive flavor.
In a novel selection of rarely heard songs astutely directed by Michael Chapman, Ryan ranged from a gravelly “I’m So Hurt” to a delicate “Life As a Child,” which had an aura of Brel and Piaf.
Ryan has a rich, beautifully trained voice and an inventive style. Her wide dark eyes and expressive face gave the ultimate advantage to her refreshingly unusual selections. One may not need to hear “Gilligan’s Island” again but its surprise visit was good for a laugh.
A highlight of the program was ”A Logical Woman,” in which Ryan’s final notes were echoed by a solo flute. In arrangement and feeling, it echoed the smoky backrooms where bebop and progressive jazz were born. Ryan and her instrumentalist wove a seamless duet that expressed the meaning of the song with haunting sweetness.
A seven-piece ensemble directed by Arte Azenzer backed Ryan with dynamic and imaginative arrangements”
“Joan Ryan has a voice that soars through the air like a crack of new sun. She’s a trumpet, she’s an angel, she’s the music that makes me dance. I was first decimated by her talent when I heard her awesome voice sailing from the stage in Los Angeles. I stopped in my tracks. I have been a fan ever since. It’s a silvery, passionate voice, informed by resonance, control and intelligence. She can explore the nuances of a piercing ballad with the vestigative talents of forensic expert, then ignite a showstopping Broadway melody with the combustion of a freight locomotive on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Always cutting straight to the emotional subtext of a lyric and leaving the listener pulsing with excitement, she can sing with the soft blush of a rose or the building throb of a Mardi Gras parade. Whatever she does, I cannot imagine ever being bored by what I hear. That would be like becoming bored by an autumn bonfire, a Malibu sunrise, or the 15 colors of red in a box of 96 crayons.
Joan Ryan and her first recorded CD of hand-picked, clutter-free songs are simply marvelous. Listen and see for yourself. The pleasure is contagious.”
“Charismatic… a performer of power and sensitivity…”
“Can send a chill down the spine.. the lady has loads of talent…”
“Ryan belts to the rafters such showstoppers as “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and “Memory” and delivers an exquisite “As If We Never Said Goodbye”
“Ah, the illusive exclusivity of stardom! Watching Joan Ryan at work is a mixed blessing.
On one hand, there’s that feeling of immense gratitude to be among the crowd packing the tiny Gardenia Room on Santa Monica Blvd. To see her worldclass club act: on the other, it’s hard to imagine what forces of the universe have conspired to make Suzanne Somers a headliner in Vegas and Joan Ryan a Thursday night attraction at the Gardenia.
Joan Ryan should be right up there shoulder to shoulder with the big guys, pure and simple. She can sing a ballad with the forcefulness of Tori Amos, war sequins as brightly as Minnelli, keep’em laughing as uproariously as Joan Rivers, and express raw and honest emotion as profoundly as Piaf.
Perhaps the true irony here is that Ryan does work – she is a regular on a TV soap, although I couldn’t tell you which one. During her act, L.A. Master Musical Director Scott Harlan craftily weaves in the vaguely familiar strains as Ryan “expresses” for the audience the range of typically spoapy emotion (a journey from A to B) she must exude daily before the cameras – about as far afield from her singing talent as one could imagine – but except for midday channel surfing on the occasional sick day, all soaps do for me is bring back shudders of my own five years on one as a kid. I’ll stick to cabaret to appreciate Ryan, thank you.
And so should she, as long as she doesn’t neglect her work in L.A. theatre either, recently most notably as the syrupy mom turned watch-out-world Broadway diva in the delightfully outrageous musical comedy spoof Ruthless!, the long-running former resident at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. But here under the direct glare of Tom McEwen’s lights at the Gardenia, from the moment Ryan steps before the audience – dressed as that Ruthless! Character and dusting our tables as she modifies “Tina’s Mother” to Joanie’s Mother” – the evening is a knockout.
Among my favorite numbers were two slow, contemplative renditions of popular showtunes: “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan and a fascinating arrangement of “Shall We Dance” from The King & I -roles which undoubtedly this theatre gypsy has played on occasion. She is at her Amosest expressing the true poetry of “Strangers Once Again” and is sure to make you mist over a tad with her loving tribute to her three-year-old daughter, “Callie’s Song” (which inventively incorporates a few random strains of the classic “Always”).
There’s a hint of Helen Morgan in “Somebody Loves Me,” only Ryan could add a near-Hebrew touch to “Once There was a Love,” gorgeously accompanied by Jeff Nudell on flute: and next to my friend Beverly d’Angelo, no one has ever brought a better version of Patsy Cline’s “Hurt” to a local stage.
But there is perhaps no moment in this dynamic evening more profoundly touching than the bittersweet ballad “My Brother Lived in San Francisco.” In the moving introduction of this sweetly sad but fiercely proud musical tribute to those lost from AIDS, Ryan mentions that the ever-touring AIDS Quilt is now so long it could spread out to cover 25 football fields.
During the song – surely not the only song about the disease that has ever brought a tear to my eye – I honestly could envision the faces of several desperately missed friends no longer here who so would have appreciated Ryan’s message: Spencer Henderson, Greg Connell, Peter Allen, George Geer, Jimmy Roddy, Michael Smith and so many, many more talented people who did not deserve to leave us yet.
As wonderful as it is to have Joan Ryan right here each Thursday night at the Gardenia, to say she deserves far more recognition would be a tremendous understatement.
But thankfully she has done her homework well, adding to her gifts by employing Harlan as musical director and accompanist, Nudell on flute and sax, and above all, turning over her talents to the best director of cabaret on the west coast – or perhaps anywhere, these days – the nearly legendary Mr. David Galligan.
Ryan closes the evening with two prophetically named tunes: “I’m Coming Home” and “Reach for the Moon.” We all should be thrilled that Los Angeles is home to this amazing performer and, on her way to the moon, don’t miss the opportunity to hitch a ride with a star.”
Joan Ryan and a Few Good Men Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill
The rare opportunity to see Broadway Baby Joan Ryan in concert is a joy in itself, but when she gives it up to the unequalled directorial hand of David Galligan and brings along talented gentlemen such as David Friedman, Sean McDermott and Michael Orland, the effect is theatrical ambrosia.
Ryan is best known to LA audiences as the mother-turned-diva Ginger DelMarco (nee Judy Denmark) in the long-running hit musical Ruthless at the now-bulldozed Canon Theatre, but the four-octave-ranged Ryan’s resume includes everything from leading roles in New York and on tour to appearances on soap operas, all of which took a backseat to motherhood and a happy marriage (yes, Virginia, there are a few of those left) hiding out deep in the suburban depths of the San Fernando Valley. As Ryan relates jokingly from the Cinegrill stage, “Do you think I wouldn’t give up a couple of sold out nights at Feinstein’s to do a couple of loads of laundry?” Luckily for us, the dirty socks are still in the hamper and Ryan agreed to return to the cabaret scene to treat us with a spectacular evening out.
Beginning with a show-stopping “Tonight at Eight,” Ryan belts her way through the nearly forgotten ballad “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard (now there’s a role she should leave Tarzana to play) and such melodious but obscure treats—I see Galligan’s mental library shuffling through the pages on these choices—as the hilarious “Alto’s Lament,” “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind (Sushi),” and a haunting “If I Sing,” which sent this hardened old reviewer into a bout of surreptitiously wiping away a few tears.
Then there are the guest appearances. Composer and self-proclaimed “Jew from the Bronx” Friedman (Disney’s animated Aladdin, among others) offers a wonderfully acerbic tongue-in-cheek wannabe holiday classic called “My Simple Christmas Wish:” Orland (musical director for American Idol) accompanies Ryan for his own composition, “The Moon and the Stars,” a sweet ballad inspired by the fierce love she has for her daughters; and Broadway leading man McDermott, who moved to LA literally the day before this opening night (“Change is growth,” he explains, then adds with a look of mock horror, “Oh god, I really am in LA!”) does an incredible turn with “Piece of the Sky” from Yentl and a memorable melding of West Side Story’s “Somewhere” and The Fantastick’s “I Can See It” in a quintessentially Merman-esque duet with Ryan.
There are two clever video presentations, first with Ryan accompanying figure skaters Jenni Mena and Todd Sand (as she did nightly on their Stars on Ice tour) with King & l’s “Shall We Dance” and a heartfelt “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz, juxtaposed with heartbreaking image after image of our world-weary fighting troops sitting dejected and alone in the Iraqi desert. It’s only a shame Ryan didn’t include a video clip or two of the anti-Christ, George Dubya Bush, leering his continual fat-cat smirk of superiority and looking like an evil kid playing a deadly real game of cops ‘n robbers while a few thousand of our young boys and a country-full of people not allowed a say in their future suffer and die as he falls off his bicycle at his Texas ranch, surrounded by Secret Service men and his own personal physician to administer to the scratch on his chin.
Ryan ends her glorious set with the Lennon-McCartney “In My Life,” a gorgeous “On a Clear Day” and a knockout “Anyplace I Hang My Heart is Home,” which is even better than the dinner fare at Feinstein’s catered by Wolfgang Puck—and that’s saying a lot. Now, if only LA audiences supported cabaret, the Cinegrill could keep an artist such as Joan Ryan testing her world-class pipes long enough for a weekly critic such as me to actually write about the experience before it closes. No wonder I long so often for the cajones to move back to New York City.
Joan Ryan debuts with a fully dimensional CD filled with a terrific assortment of modern material along with a sprinkle of two of show tunes. But this is not your mother’s pop mix. It’s a delicious blend of unusual arrangements (two in particular from Scott Harlan) and unexpected directions.
Taking for example I’m Flying (Peter Pan), Harlan underscores notes from Something’s Coming (West Side Story) as Ryan interprets the lyric as you’ve never heard it before. No longer a child’s fantasy, it’s now about a woman on the verge of a new love giving the song an easy intimacy. It’s this kind of inventive playfulness that makes this CD so unique.
The trick is repeated on Shall We Dance: this one augmented with a sexy sax from Phil Feather. Suddenly what was originally a roaring production number has been transformed in an intimate ballad. Purists may take exception to the iazz undercurrent but Ryan infuses the lyric not only with simple direct honesty but returns with her soaring belt building to a dream finish.
What’s great here is that Ryan has also allowed her heart to show especially on My Brother Lived in San Francisco a touching memorial for a lost sibling penned by Bill Russell and Janet Wood from a British musical called Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.
The singer’s emotional tenderness reveals itself on Feels Like Home (Diane Warren), not to be confused with John Bucchino’s song, It Feels Like Home, a cabaret favorite. Ryan sings the delicate love song with a gentle simplicity and heart aching clarity. Bucchino is represented though, along with Lindy Robins, on Strangers Once Again put forth with a straightforward whispered quality.
Not every song is a big tour de force or a ballad. Included here is a great version of Christine Lavin’s humorous ode to sushi, Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind which is sure to make even the toughest grinch break into a warm smile.
Part of the brilliance of Joan Ryan on disc is the singer’s bursting belt. She starts off with Trust the Wind (David Friedman) and displays it with striking force on the complicated West End Avenue by Stephen Schwartz. On A Clear Day she reaches out like a clarion call across the airwaves in a smooth crest which is simply inspiring!
Joan Ryan sure knows how to put together a CD which is filled with gems. Just the right smattering of familiar tunes with unexpected arrangements lovingly performed alongside new and touching ballads make this debut CD one of the finest discs available. Hats off to Joan Ryan.
“Ryan’s hope on her recording for the LML Music label, singer/actress Joan Ryan (left) begins with a heartfelt rendition of David Friedman’s newest inspirational ball, “Trust the Wind.” On a slowed-down version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Shall We Dance?” that Ryan builds to a climactic finale, the singer demonstrates the full power of her chest tomes. Ryan is at her best while belting full force, but she also scores with the gentle “Strangers Once Again,” bringing depth to this bittersweet story of running into a former lover. Other highlights include “The Moon & the Stars,” a charming song about the love a mother feels for her daughter: “West End Avenue,” Stephen Schwartz’s ode to life in New York City: and the heartbreaking tune “My Brother Lived in San Francisco,” a remembrance of a brother now gone. Ryan also has some fun with Christine Lavin’s “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind,” which details the many things one may try for love: going to the opera, trying sushi, skiing. The 13-track recording, simply titled Joan Ryan, concludes with a rousing medley of “Follow Me” and the Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane classic, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,”
“The star of Ruthless! is back with an album. Joan Ryan’s self-titled solo debut features an eclectic mix of standards and new material. Currently on tour to support the album, she will return to L.A. later in the year with a one-woman recital show, which, judging by this recording, is definitely worth seeing.
Based in L.A., Ryan has played different sides of Hollywood, moving from stage to screen with ease. She had parts in a few musicals including Anyone Can Whistle, and Joseph appeared in The Young And The Restless, Saved By The Bell and sang on a few Broadway recordings. She even owns a voiceover company. Her biggest critical acclaim so far came with her portrayal of Judy Denmark in the production of Ruthless! – a role she originated.
The heart of any die-hard Broadway fan will brighten listening to this record. Ryan’s five-octave apparatus soars seamlessly through a range of emotions, from a breathy recitation to a lion’s roar. Her best moments come when the brilliance of technique, that she is deservedly praised for, merges with the genuineness of feeling. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Shall We Dance” is, arguably, the top selection on the CD. Her emotional rendition of My Brother Lived in San Francisco would touch any heart. As for the rest, the record is true to the conventions of Broadway: uplifting message, skin-deep lyrics and Disney arrangements. As each song ends, you can’t but expect that obligatory ecstatic moment when lifted by the arms of dancers, the diva takes a pause, hits a high, endless note and with her arms outstretched is carried off-stage.”
“Joan Ryan starred in the original production of Marvin Laird and Joel Paley’s Ruthless! And has appeared in a number of other shows including Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Elegies and Anyone Can Whistle. Her self-titled debut album reveals a wonderfully straightforward voice of considerable warmth and strength. Her approach to both pop and show material is none the worse for being slightly old-fashioned in its unadorned directness. It is refreshing to hear these songs just sung, with truth, honesty and obvious enjoyment. Her voice is natural and unaffected, with an easy belt when required, and you can actually hear her smiling with pleasure when something in the lyric or melody takes her fancy.
Ryan’s programme comprises a mixture of familiar modern standards and new material. Her interpretation of Paul Willams’ I Won’t Last A Day Without You is touchingly optimistic – a simple declaration of true love without the note of doubt that the lyric might imply. This sunny yet vulnerable quality is particularly affecting on numbers such as Diane Warren’s Fells Like Home and Bruce Roberts and Carole Bayer Sager’s I’m Coming Home Again where Ryan suggests a poignant certainty that bad times really are a thing of the past.
The album’s closer. a medley of Follow Me and On a Clear Day, recorded at a S.TA.G.E. benefit dedicated to the music of Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe and Burton Lane, is a flash of pure Broadway, the singer taking delight in her ability to spin out the demanding melody with ease while pouring commitment and passion into the heartfelt lyric. David Siegel’s arrangements are as fresh and free of affectation as the lady herself. Between them they have produced an album of considerable charm.”
“There are a lot of young girl singers out there with great voices and fine recordings, so Joan Ryan played it smart and got the terrific John Bowsell to handle keyboards on her first recording and had Lee Lessack take charge in the booth.
Enlisting some fine arrangers and skilled musicians, Ryan delivers a 13-song set. Her alternately delicate and powerful voice is showcased in fine form on selections that dust off some chestnuts and polish them up quite attractively – I’m Flying is sung to an accompaniment of Something’s Coming (and works!), Shall We Dance gets a jazz, blues setting – and revisits some tunes that give Ryan a chance to show her versatility – Feels Like Home, Christine Lavin’s Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind, West End Avenue. But the highlight of this set is Ryan’s tender reading of My Brother Lived in San Francisco, a sister’s tribute to her brother who died of AIDS. It’s a simply stunning moment that will take your breath away.”
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