On July 22, 2021, Manhattan’s historic social club, The Players, played host to a concert of opera and musical theatre selections, performed by mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh and pianist Keith Chambers.
The recital featured the premiere of songs from two new musicals by composer Jeff Shankley, “Brooklyn to Broadway,” and “Casanova.” A veteran of the stage and screen, Shankley has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has originated roles on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals “Cats” and “Starlight Express.”
Opening the concert was “Mister Snow” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.” The jaunty rhythm and McIntosh’s humorous delivery made for a lighthearted start, with her phrases often tapering into a more affectionate quality. This was used to great effect with the shift on the line “but now that I love him…” which let her employ lush, sustaining tones. Carrie’s lines of imagining her married future saw delightful expression through McIntosh’s refined diction and energetic bearing, with the approach being comical yet still sincere.
Following this was “Una Voce Poco fa,” from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.” This mezzo showcase saw McIntosh make use of her abundant vocal and dramatic technique, with no shortage of soaring high notes and flexible roulades among the contrasting sections, bolstered by her scheming expression and sassy poise. These qualities built to a highly-spirited conclusion. Her next operatic number was the “Seguidilla” from “Carmen.” Opening with a playful staccato touch in the accompaniment, McIntosh started her rendition with her arms behind her back, swaying in her captivity while she outlined the tempting imagery of passion. After building to a more exciting tempo, she indulged in a similar flare, shaping fine trills towards her close.
Returning to musical theatre selections, McIntosh performed two new songs from Jeff Shankley’s developing musical “Brooklyn to Broadway.” These numbers used a pre-recorded track for accompaniment. The first saw her use a taken expression, among the sweeter musical atmosphere. McIntosh managed her registers deftly as the phrases took her from a spoken quality to a rich, operatic lyricism. The second number, “Midnight in Brooklyn,” bore a tranquil feeling marked with lightly reverberating figures. The observational lyrics were given by McIntosh with a distant, yet interested expression to match her diminuendos. She went on to gloss her numerous sights with sentiment that was contrasted by her final line “That’s a place I don’t know…” which bore a fascinated caress to emphasize her character’s new horizons.
One beloved selection came in the form of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.” The opening leap and its unfolding measures retained a light and charming quality in McIntosh’s slightly-lower texture. While her elegant phrasing did not seem the sort to come from a Kansas farm-girl, her rendition did not lack for a sense of wonder as it crested to a lovely conclusion.
Closing the program were two selections from Shankley’s musical “Casanova.” The first of these, titled “A Secret Love” saw McIntosh outline the ideas and promises held by this theme, with her repetitions joined by the way she opened up her guarded bearing into one of romantic fervor and vulnerability. The second number, “For Just One Day,” explored the magic and change that can be brought about by love, with McIntosh’s tender delivery matched by descending melismatic runs.
The encore of the evening was “Zueignung,” by Richard Strauss. This classical number flowed with desperate affection, backed by rising chords, that let McIntosh and Chambers delight the audience with a truly powerful finish.
While only about an hour-long, the concert drew from a sparkling variety of new and familiar works, which McIntosh introduced and embodied with aplomb. Audiences can hear her next in the role of Beppe in Teatro Grattacielo’s upcoming production of Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz.”