Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Tom Reardon's Both Sides Now: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell
Feinstein's at the Nikko
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Swimmers, The Realistic Joneses, and Mothers and Sons and Patrick's reviews of Wait Until Dark and Anna in the Tropics

Tom Reardon, a fixture in the Bay Area theater scene (including leading roles in local productions of Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Guys and Dolls) is also a frequent cabaret performer, and he brings his latest effort, Both Sides Now: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, to Feinstein's at the Nikko for a two-night run. His experience in the theater has given him a terrific sense of showmanship, and the nearly two-hour effort he puts forth here is nicely structured and eminently theatrical, but is marred by a misguided approach to some of the numbers, and a voice that isn't always up to the task at hand.

Reardon understood this set of songs from two of the greatest singer-songwriters ever (as he wisely pointed out, Dylan basically invented the singer-songwriter persona) is a bit of a stretch for a musical comedy veteran, but has bravely attempted to re-frame the selections to fit his voice. Sometimes, as with "Maggie's Farm," the approach is successful. He and his band and three backup singers give the song a bounce and drive that are both charming and toe-tapping. Likewise, his take on "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" gives the number a twang of western swing that works perfectly. Too bad he doesn't have a pedal steel player to add that final touch of Bob Wills-esque authenticity! But when it comes to "I Shall Be Released" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Reardon's cheery persona can't help shining through these two very sad numbers, and they fail to communicate the emotional power within the songs.

Compounding these unfortunate choices, Reardon's voice, while pleasant enough, lacks power in the higher register. Every time he journeys up the scale, it is as though his voice is constrained or boxed in. Rather than bursting free to the emotional highs these moments require, he seems to struggle to maintain the pitch. One of his guest stars has a similar, but more serious problem: on her way to higher notes she often stops short and lands flat. (But in her middle register sweet spot, she is sweet indeed.)

Despite these flaws, the show is well planned, with just the right mix of banter, song background, and personal stories. The choreography, especially for his three backup singers, is top-drawer: imaginative and clever, but never drawing too much attention away from center stage. Reardon has some terrific comic lines and lands them well, with excellent timing. (Referring to the ostrich suit he wears, ostensibly mollifying the animal rights activists in the room, he says "For the price I paid for this, the bird was already sick.")

Given that this is Reardon's fourth appearance at Feinstein's, expect a return engagement (though likely with a different show) sometime soon.

Tom Reardon's Both Sides Now: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, at Feinstein's at the Nikko through March 19, 2016. Information about Reardon's career and shows can be found at his website. The calendar of upcoming events Feinstein's at the Nikko is available at