Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Laid Back Performance of Mary Wilson

Also see Richard's reviews of After Dark, A Christmas Carol and Into the Woods

The Supreme Diva Mary Wilson is making her first Empire Plush Room cabaret appearance through December 11. This legendary singer, who was a founding member of The Supremes, is calling her show Up Close and Personal. This is a lady who has class with a capital C, and a smooth and laid back voice like Aretha Franklin or Sarah Vaughn when singing such lovely songs as "Body and Soul," "New York State of Mind," and "Smile."  Her voice is soft and mellow in songs such as "Here's to Life" and the swinging "Girl from Ipanema." Ms. Wilson does a terrific arrangement of "Fields of Gold" with the amazing jazz guitarist Ray Pannell backing her up.

Wilson, known primarily as a moving rock and roller during those years with The Supremes, is an artist who does not need exaggerated moves to put over a song. Her natural and audience-friendly manner puts over her songs like some of the great singers who played venues like the Persian Room in New York, Kelly's in Chicago, or The Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room.

She enters the stage with only a brief introduction, dressed in a beautiful red satin gown with a white satin neckpiece and a set of diamonds that look like something the Czarina of Russia would have worn.  She talks briefly of her life after The Supremes, about going to Bosnia as a good will ambassador after the war, singing concerts with symphony orchestras, and a recent tour of Sophisticated Ladies. She talks very little about The Supremes. This woman has the air of sophistication about her when she is on stage.

A Supremes medley just does not come off;  the songs are meant for the full group and they sound lost when sung by only one person.  However, her last song, "What a Wonderful World," is breathtaking.  She comes back for an encore with the great Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides Now" that brings down the house.

Wilson is backed by a wonderful quintet of terrific musicians that includes Mark Zier on piano (also the music director), Donzell Davis on drums, Daniel Fabricant on bass, Winston Byrd on trumpet, and the remarkable Ray Pannell on guitar.

Mary Wilson will be at the Empire Plush Room in the Hotel York, 940 Sutter Street, San Francisco through December 11th. For tickets call 415-885-2800 or visit

Lorna Luft comes to the room December 27th through December 30, with special New Years Eve Performances at 7 pm and 10:30 pm.

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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