Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

An Evening with Judy CollinsManatee Performing Arts Center
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Nabucco


Judy Collins
Photo Provided by Judycollins.com
It was quite thrilling to learn that Judy Collins was going to perform at Manatee Performing Arts Center, in a 500-seat venue. What a fine opportunity to see this great artist in an intimate setting, right in my own hometown. I found Ms. Collins' latest album, "A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim," which includes 11 well-chosen songs, is beautifully sung, with her voice beautifully vibrant and warm, and still in control of her lustrous top.

The program opened with her own composition, "Open the Door," from a 1995 album. It is a lovely song, full of the imagery one has come to expect from her. Next came Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," one of Judy's greatest hits. When she got a bit confused between the verses, she laughed it off while several from the audience offered to sing it for her. Ms. Collins' stage demeanor all night was relaxed and comfortable, as if among friends. She shared several stories of folk artists and others she has known and worked with. The intimacy of the venue was a positive factor.

She performed a tribute to friend and colleague Joan Baez, "Diamonds and Rust." By this time I realized that the voice was showing some wear and tear after a long, rich career, but she remains a true star. Highlights from the rest of the first half include Stephen Sondheim's "Move On," and a medley of her "My Father" and Jacques Brel's "Sons Of" sung in the Eric Blau/Mort Shulman translation from Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

The second half began with the star seated at the piano performing a loving spoken tribute to her early classical music mentor, Antonia Brico. Next was the song "Albatross," followed by another tribute, this one to the late Leonard Cohen via stories and his "Suzanne." "New Moon Over the Hudson" and "Beyond the Sky" followed before the breathtaking "Dreamers," a tribute to the children born to immigrants, now in limbo and in fear of deportation on a whim. Sung a capella, this was to my mind the most moving of all Ms. Collins' political manifestos. "Send in the Clowns" ended the program with an encore of a sing-along "Amazing Grace."

It was quite a night, seeing an artist I have always enjoyed, but previously from a distance. She was warm and ingratiating to a full house, offering a glimpse of her greatness.

An Evening with Judy Collins, March 8, 2019, at Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL. For information on future presentations, call 941-748-0111 or visit manateeplayers.com.


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