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Lobban and Wallowitch: The Perfect Pair

Lynn Lobban and John Wallowitch, together again at Judy*s Chelsea. logo

Lynn Loban and John Wallowitch
Lynn Lobban has been singing the work of John Wallowitch for 25 years, though she hardly looks old enough to have been performing that long. She sings this master songwriter's work with the kind of intimacy that comes from a deep experience of his art; no one, other than Wallowitch himself, has performed his catalogue with so much respect, love, and understanding. The Lobban/Wallowitch collaboration spawned a number of earlier shows, portions of which are reprised in their current act together at Judy*s Chelsea, inaccurately titled The Second Time Around. By our count, this is their fifth time around--but the show is so special that it's certainly worth a second visit, so maybe the title isn't so wrong after all. In any event, Lobban and Wallowitch have such unique chemistry that we're already looking forward to their sixth collaboration.

Lobban, a pixiesh soprano, may have the most expressive eyes in cabaret; in assessing her acting skills, we would definitely say that the eyes have it. Her face is an exhibit of emotional snapshots--which is only fitting in that she sings the Wallowitch opus "Photographs" with the shutter of her heart open wide to the let the light flood in. Speaking of light, much of the material in this show has a dark, shaded nature. Wallowitch is no Pollyanna; his music has a deceptive simplicity but his lyrics are often laced with hard-won truths. He doesn't write with rose-colored glasses on but, rather, with thick, penetrating lenses that see past the obvious. That he can so elegantly articulate the human condition and then embrace it makes his music all the richer. There is no better example of this than "I Live Alone Again." Lobban begins it as a song of heartbreak, taking us through the painful, daily experiences of life after her lover has deserted her. Then, repeating the verse, she finds freedom in those very same experiences and noticeably brightens. By the coda, however, the cloud of loneliness tinges her happiness. The song offers a brilliantly dynamic emotional arc and Lobban captures it exquisitely.

Wallowitch, of course, is also known for his comedy numbers; his humor is as juicy as a Cole Porterhouse steak, and just as meaty. Lobban cleverly couples several of his tunes with famous songs by other composers to heighten the comic effect. For instance, she sings "Too Marvelous For Words" as a lead-in to Wallowitch's hilarious "Like," about inarticulateness. So, too, Lobban connects the Kander & Ebb anthem "New York, New York" with Wallowitch's "There Ain't No War in California" to explain why a fed-up citizen of Gotham is finally fleeing the Big Apple.

In delivering these and other selections, Lobban displays a delicate but reliable voice. Though her sound is not distinctive, she is an actress of distinction, and her interpretive talent is on display throughout this warmhearted tribute to an undervalued songwriter. The act culminates in Lobban's rendition of what is inarguably Wallowitch's greatest achievement, "This Moment." The song, and her performance of it, are momentous. You have two more chances to catch The Second Time Around at Judy*s Chelsea, on Wednesday, May 22 and Sunday, June 2; both shows are at 8:30pm.

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