One Alice Ripley is the singer and actress who has been so impressive on Broadway in such productions as “Sideshow” and “Next to Normal,” thereby an award-winning musical theater star. But there is also another side to her—solo singing and songwriting in a different mold, a facet that has earned her a separate following, much in evidence in the groupie atmosphere generated for her performance that I caught (August 29, 2010) at Dopo Teatro, the trattoria at 124 West 44th Street.
Producers Dale Badway and Michael Alden have turned the Dopo Teatro downstairs into a cabaret venue on selected nights, and the place was jammed on the Saturday when I came to see Ripley. The audience was youthful in comparison with the audiences customarily generated by cabaret. Ripley has amassed fans of her work and her style with a big boost from the internet. Her audience sat patiently awaiting her arrival, nearly an hour after the scheduled starting time. She offered no explanation for her lateness, and didn’t indicate that she needed one. But I certainly thought she did.
Taking the stage with her guitar, she mostly sat as she delivered her songs, interspersed with throw-away comments that defined the casualness of her style and audience communication. Ripley seems to get lost in her numbers, as she reaches for different vocal effects while she accompanies herself on the guitar. Her repertoire comes across as folk with a contemporary twist—that is leaning on the old patterns of folk singing, but putting her own pop spin on the approach, one more in tune with today.
Her repertoire included such numbers as “Take Me to the River,” “I Am an Island,” “You’re the Love of My Life,” and “My Home Town.” She sings with ease and intimacy, fully in command of what she wants to do. It is a long way from the Broadway side of her that I know best, but a measure of who she is and her versatility. On display in this totally different context was the voice that meeting different demands enabled her to scale the complicated heights as the woman wracked with depression in the demanding “Next to Normal.” Reviewed at Dopo Teatro Trattoria, 124 West 44th Street.