Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Lynch has been touring this show for the past couple of years, including a debut at New York's cabaret hot spot 54 Below in 2014. Lynch's smart and sassy show, somewhat reminiscent of a 1970s TV variety show in how eclectic, outlandish and comedic it is, succeeds in being a well thought out concert that turns your typical cabaret show on its ear, while at the same time playing to all of the traditional cabaret requirements. For example, while Lynch states there really is no theme to the show, there are segments in which she reminisces about her parents and her childhood, songs focused on relationships, well-rehearsed audience banter and jokes, and the requisite planned encore. However, what Lynch adds to these typical cabaret necessities is her ability to make the whole thing seem completely natural, cheeky and smartsometimes all at the same time.
Lynch's easygoing, warm, bright and somewhat folksy delivery of the songs may also come as a shock to those who only know her from her Emmy winning role on "Glee" or her appearances in several Christopher Guest film comedies (she had her breakout role in his 2000 film Best in Show). Yes, Lynch can carry a tune, and carry it very well, but she also knows how to wring the comic moments from even some of the most serious songs.
Backed by The Tony Guerrero Quintet, who opened the show with a few expertly played tunes including a West Side Story medley and an upbeat, swinging version of "When You're Smiling" that featured Guerrero channeling Louis Armstrong, Lynch started the show off with the loopy "Wishes" that featured the repeated nonsensical lyric, "If wishes are rainbows, so am I." The jazzy, risqué song "Slappin' the Cakes on Me" followed, receiving a well-mannered delivery from the singer. Those two songs set the tone for the entire show: offbeat, adult and very funny.
Lynch's close friend Kate Flannery, who played Meredith Palmer on the TV show "The Office," joined in for most of the evening, providing harmony, back-up vocals, and humorous banter and quips. Their relationship was reminiscent of Sonny and Cher's on their 70s TV series: great chemistry, love and respect for each other, tight harmonies while at the same time mocking and making fun of themselves and their stage partner. Irving Berlin's "Mr. Monotony" received a lush and fairly classical delivery from the pair while Fiddler on the Roof's heartbreaking "Far From the Home I Love" became an up-beat, driving and rousing number that worked splendidly.
Vocalist Tim Davis, who worked with Lynch on "Glee" and who also sang a few songs in the opening set, joined Lynch and Flannery in tight three-part harmony on several songs and was superb. These included two of Guest's songs from his folk mockumentary film A Mighty Wind, in which Lynch appeared: "Skeletons of Quinto" and "Blood on the Coal." The latter, a hilariously deadpan folk song about a train wreck in a coal mine, included Lynch's continual disapproving and hilarious looks to Flannery's strange, upbeat enthusiasm during this serious number.
The trio sang some almost forgotten standards, the jaunty "Mairzy Doats" and the smooth and sophisticated "Rose Marie," but also showed they could rap, taking Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" to new heights of hilarity with syncopated dance moves and booty-shaking from Lynch. In between those numbers, a medley of "love" songs that focused on the importance of one's happiness being dependent on one other person, which Lynch called "bullshit," included such songs as Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." The completely misogynistic lyrics of these songs received a bitter delivery from Lynch, with her biting commentary in between the lyrics especially effective. Lynch and Flannery also sang a tight duet of "I'll Plant My Own Tree" from the film Valley of the Dolls.
The show ended, appropriately, with a moving and meaningful version of "The Party's Over" followed by two encores. The first, a humorous medley of songs that made Lynch, Flannery and Davis, as well as the five guys in the band cry when they were kids, including Jane's favorite, "Puff, the Magic Dragon," followed by a rewritten version of the classic Jefferson Airplane hit "White Rabbit." But even that last song had a new spin to it, with the repeated lyric "Go Ask Alice" taking on a different meaning. Lynch and Flannery, who got their start in Chicago's Second City comic troupe, toured in a live theatrical version of The Real Live Brady Bunch with Lynch as "Carol" and Flannery as "Alice" in which they'd sing this song as an ode to that classic TV sitcom's maid, Alice. Flannery commented that the two performed that show on the SCPA stage twenty years ago.
Lynch's undeniable likability and her clear, warm vocals brought a professional shine to the hilariously inappropriate nature of many of the numbers. Her See Jane Sing! show is both unexpected and exciting, full of harmony and a respect and craftsmanship that is fresh and fun but also full of heart.
Jane Lynch in See Jane Sing! performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday January 23rd 2016. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.