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A Star on the Small Stage

Linda Eder returns to her nightclub origins. logo
Linda Eder
Since the time she stunned Starsearch viewers with an unprecedented 12-week winning streak in 1988, Linda Eder's own star has been steadily on the rise. Catching the attention of composer Frank Wildhorn during her Starsearch run, Eder entered into what would become a most significant professional and personal relationship--one that would shape the direction of her career and her life. During an audition for Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde in 1988, the pair discovered a musical and personal chemistry that would blend his songwriting skills and her vocal skills into a single creative force inspiring nearly a half-dozen musicals and countless songs.

Today, Eder is well known as Wildhorn's muse, bringing life to his music through concerts, solo recordings, musical concept recordings and on the Broadway stage. In 1998 they married, at their nine-acre North Salem horse farm in Westchester County, New York.

With a voice often compared to that of Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Celine Dion, Eder has become a contemporary pop diva, one whose own legendary status was firmly established at her recent Carnegie Hall triumph this past February. In a remarkable return to her nightclub origins, Eder will appear at Scullers Jazz Club at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Boston for two sold-out shows on April 13. High demand resulted in a third show being added at the Copley Theater, in Boston's Back Bay, on April 14.

While many are familiar with Eder's current repertoire of pop show tunes, mostly from Wildhorn's musicals, Eder's earliest musical interests were classical. Growing up in Brainerd, Minnesota, the daughter of a Viennese chef and Norwegian mother, Eder studied classical voice as a child. She was infatuated with the arias of Eileen Farrell. However, she abruptly made an about-face toward pop standards in high school, influenced by the theatrical sounds of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. "I always loved classical music. I still do. But when I saw Garland in a film, something just clicked," Eder remembers. "It made me want to perform in that way. I'm a shy person by nature. But once I'm on stage I overcome my own shyness, and the embarrassment, and the rejection that comes with performing."

Without putting her finger on exactly what appealed to her, Eder was instinctively drawn to Garland's charismatic style and Streisand's emotive music, and began unabashedly shaping her own vocal style after theirs. Confident in her considerable vocal range and dynamics, Eder frequently offers tribute to her mentors, performing such Garland signature songs as "The Man that Got Away," and even "Over the Rainbow," both by Harold Arlen. After a Houston appearance in 1988, The Houston Chronicle reviewer Everett Evan remarked, "Eder segued into a rousing 'Don't Rain on My Parade,' meeting the frequent Streisand comparisons head-on by using the original arrangement and even emulating Streisand's vocal inflections. The likeness was almost alarming."

While Eder has been known to sing the occasional song by Stephen Sondheim or Maury Yeston ("I do like singing the songs of other writers. They have their own unique styles: the intervals; the lyrics. They are different."), it is the music of husband Frank Wildhorn that Eder most often sings. She has appeared on the concept albums for three Wildhorn musicals, Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Civil War, is heard on the original cast recording for Jekyll & Hyde, for which she created the role of Lucy in the Broadway premiere. Wildhorn told The New York Times last October, "She is an incredible musician, and what comes out of our partnership, it doesn't get any better than that. She is the voice I hear when I'm writing for female parts in the theater."
When asked if she will appear in Wildhorn's next musical, Havana, currently under development, Eder notes quite unaffectedly, "Naturally, I will. Havana was written for me." Eder eagerly anticipates this new opportunity, exclaiming, "I love the idea of it! A modern-day girl trapped in the fantasy of being Rita Hayworth in 1949. It will be a nice change. J & H was very dark. Havana is a romantic comedy with over-the-top glamour, and an anything-goes feel associated with that larger-than-life era." Eder gives us a taste of Havana on her recording "It's No Secret Anymore," which features three songs from the score.

Though Eder has filled theaters and concert halls around the country for several years now, she is no stranger to small venues. "Years ago, I started out in nightclubs." Recently, she finished a lengthy engagement at Feinstein's at the Regency, a new cabaret venue opened last fall by Michael Feinstein. About the contrast between concert hall and cabaret club, Eder remarks, "I like the intimacy. I'm personable. I always interact with the audience in my shows. I'm always interested in the audience, and what they're thinking. It does conflict a little with the shy thing. At Feinstein's they are right there--two feet away. It's exciting and frightening at the same time." Even so, Eder does not feel that what she does, even in a small space, would be considered cabaret. "Cabaret shows can be performed in any kind of space, large or small. It's an attitude. Cabaret shows have through-lines, and structures, with certain themes or tones. I don't do cabaret. I'm really a concert performer."

In her upcoming appearance at Scullers Jazz Club, Eder will do very little to tailor her concert hall show for the small stage, other than perhaps reduce her combo from eight pieces to six. Armed with big band-style arrangements by Kim Scharnberg, Eder will be accompanied by longtime musical director Jeremy Roberts on piano, with guitar, bass, drums, woodwinds and horns rounding out the band. Her show will likely consist of Wildhorn songs from "It's No Secret Anymore," possibly including the lullaby "Anything Can Happen" from Wildhorn's in-process musical Alice, which Eder sings for Jake Ryan, their seven-month old son.

Later this year, Eder will perform again in the Boston area, this time teaming up with Feinstein himself at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts. "We have done split shows together before, my half and his half, back to back. Michael and I have sung duets on each other's albums as well, including the song 'Someone' on my second album, So Much More." At the North Shore Music Theater show, Eder is considering a change in the structure, where they would instead each walk into each other's sets to share a duet. "He's really fun to perform with," Eder confides. "I'm looking forward to our shows together."

Linda Eder performs at Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, April 13 (sold out), and at the Copley Theater, Clarendon Street, Boston, Friday April 14 at 8pm. Tickets are $45-$40, and are on sale at Bostix, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling (617/508) 931-2000. Linda Eder will also be performing with Michael Feinstein at the North Shore Music Theater, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, August 16, at 8pm. For reservations call (978) 232-7200.

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