Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's series A Life In The Theatre
Linda Eder is known as perhaps the most popular new interpreter of theatrical songs to emerge during the 1990s. She was a disciple of Barbra Streisand who gradually forged her own vocal style and branched out from show tunes to pop standards, light swing and adult contemporary music. As a stage actress, Eder worked primarily with her husband, composer Frank Wildhorn, who often designed his material specifically for her. It was Wildhorn's musical adaptation Jekyll & Hyde that catapulted Eder to stardom in 1997. While she continues to rely on his creativity for a good portion of her recording output, her albums reflect an ever broadening style.
Linda Eder was born in 1961, in Tucson, Arizona, just two months after her parents emigrated to the United States. Her mother was Norwegian, and her father was Austrian. They eventually settled the family in the small northern town of Brainerd, Minnesota, where Linda spent the vast majority of her childhood. At 16, she won a local beauty pageant and began performing locally, making her first professional appearance at the Brainerd Holiday Inn in 1981. She took the nightclub act on the road, playing cabarets, cocktail lounges, and supper clubs around the country.
In 1988, Eder caught her first big break when she successfully auditioned for the TV talent show Star Search. She went on to win the competition twelve weeks in a row, which brought her to the attention of composer Frank Wildhorn, who had recently co-written Whitney Houston's number one hit, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go." Wildhorn had been working on a musical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's legendary "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" story for quite some time, and securing Eder's services gave the project a whole new life. Eder was cast in the role of Lucy, a prostitute and nightclub singer.
The first version of Jekyll & Hyde premiered in Houston in 1990, and an album of musical highlights was released the same year in hopes of stimulating interest in the show. Eder recorded a self-titled debut album in 1991 which was released by RCA. The song "You Are My Home," recorded as a duet featuring Linda Eder and Peabo Bryson, was a minor hit on the adult contemporary charts. Eder's next solo album was 1994's And So Much More. Soon after that, she embarked on her first national concert tour as a solo artist, releasing the album It's Time.
After undergoing substantial revisions, Jekyll & Hyde finally made its long-awaited Broadway premiere in 1997. Miss Eder did more than 900 performances of the show, and the success of the musical, added to her cult following, resulted in full-fledged stardom for Eder. She signed to Atlantic Records that year and released the album It's No Secret Anymore in 1999. This was followed by her 2000 holiday album, Christmas Stays The Same, 2002's Gold and 2003's Broadway My Way.
Miss Eder's live performance nears complete vocal perfection. She is indeed a singer's singer, and her musicianship shines from start to finish. There is a liquid quality to her sound that is a welcome change from the standard Broadway belt when she is singing show tunes. Her more contemporary/ pop musical selections have dynamic shaping that is intelligent and emotional rather than merely filled with meaningless vocal riffs. Certainly, with a range as wide as she possesses, the easiest route could be to just go for the money notes. Thankfully, Eder is a seasoned enough performer to know that the easiest choice is not always the best, and in song after song, her gift to her her audience is that she gives her best. She has a rare voice that tempts the listener, with eyes closed, to lose themselves in her musical journey.
Her recent concert performance featured many of the songs from her newly released album, By Myself, which showcases the songs of Judy Garland. Though she does these songs very well, the two best numbers of the evening were undoubtedly "Bring On The Men" (from one of the versions of Jekyll & Hyde), which was dedicated to a long time fan, and a her signature arrangement of "I Am I, Don Quixote" from the musical Man of La Mancha.
Her performance style is simplistic as she stands center stage for almost the entire show. Those who would look for dance numbers, back-up singers and special effects may want for more. The only real disappointment in her performance however is that she does not have enough of a smooth patter of storytelling that allows her audience to get to know her better. We can do without her stories of our Florida weather; we already know about that. One of the few stories she does tell, which is about her son, certainly solidifies the endearing nature of the song "If I Could." So, why not give the audience more? The compliment is that the audience really does want to know more of the talented woman behind the voice.
The Sunset Entertainment Group, Inc. and producer Joseph E. Ferrer, presented Linda Eder in concert as part of their 2007-2008 Headliners & Comedy Legends Series on Saturday, December 8th, 2007. Miss Eder appeared at the Carole & Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. For more information on the performances offered by Sunset Entertainment, you may go to www.SunsetEt.com.