Barb Jungr signals new direction in her work at the Crazy Coqs. Read review here:
Barb Jungr- This Wheel’s On Fire. Photo by Steve Ullathorne
Barb Jungr opened her new show This Wheel’s On Fire at Crazy Coqs with a selection of songs from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others including Bruce Springsteen, and even Kern and Hammerstein. Jungr is known for her personal take on much of Dylan’s material, but this new collection represents a further, deeper, exploration of the music and lyrics.
She makes an ambitious opening with the wordy verses from It’s Alright Ma- I’m Only Bleeding, and moves on to one of the stand-out numbers of the evening – a mash-up of Walk Me Out in the Morning Dew and an effectively dark and sinister feel of Richard’s and Jagger’s Paint It Black.
The well-structured first half contains some excellent arrangements by Musical Director Simon Wallace on the subject of change, causing us to hear the lyrics anew in The Times They are a Changin’ and the superb Things Have Changed, and there is a rhythmically complex jazz take on Springsteen’s Devils and Dust, which includes a powerful harmonica solo by Jungr herself.
There are some mesmerising items in the second half too, most especially the title song This Wheel’s On Fire, with an almost Macbethian delving into witchy interpretation. Ol’ Man River also greatly moved the audience. However, the structure of this half in terms of narrative and emotional arc would benefit from some attention. There needs to be more changes of pace and some lighter banter, and re- positioning of songs with similar rhythmic structure, to keep the surprises coming.
Albeit with that reservation, this work is most arresting, demanding from the audience a real and close attention, and signals a movement in Jungr’s artistic direction. It is musical sophistication contrasting with earthy, primeval subject-matter, reinforced by the use of her powerful chest voice morphing effortlessly into a tremulous sweetness in numbers such as Blowin’ In the Wind.
An original, intriguing and sometimes darkly challenging evening – I sense an enticing development in Jungr’s work, and I’m looking forward to more.
About Fiona Jane Weston
I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene.
I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now.
I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood.
With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response.
Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs.
2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK.
I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts.