Boundaries were stretched with awesome creativity as singer Lauren Fox and guitar-playing singer Ritt Henn teamed in a unique conceptual cabaret performance titled “Ghosts of Love,” which I saw at Stage 72 on February 20, one of the selected booking dates between January 9 and March 12, 2014. The program was akin to theater as the two created an aura of lovers singing to one another with no banter until the very end. Throughout they established a rapport expressed entirely, earthily and romantically in song with moods ranging from delicacy to assertion. It was a pair made in heaven, which may have been the intended locale. In fact, a favorite refrain was “In heaven everything is fine.”
The subtitle of the show, “Songs from the Reel World if David Lynch,” pointed to the selections culled from the music in Lynch’s movies. The result was much different from what one usually encounters in a cabaret act, a mix of songs aimed directly at an audience with intermittent background information and/or anecdotes. This time, from the very start, Fox and Henn were attuned to one another, almost as if they were in a room by themselves. The effect was magical, interrupted only by applause after each offering.
Henn’s participation was a revalation. He is known primarily as a superb bass player. Here, he not only played a bass guitar, plus a bit on a ukulele, but he sang, cowboy style, with charm, sexiness and a solid stage presence.
Fox, as she has demonstrated, repeatedly has a gift for exploring new territory and an impressive voice to match, whether in a breathy register or hitting high notes, all with deep interpretative power. Wearing a black dress, she looked in perfect harmony with the solemn ambiance achieved.
Among the wide range of selections, “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star,” which Lynch used in the film “Mulholland Drive,” and “Love Me Tender” from “Wild at Heart” were especially delicate. Fox ventured off-stage briefly into the audience to sing a very intimate version of “Blue Velvet,” which was performed by Isabella Rossellini in Lynch’s film of that title.
“Sinnerman,” performed by Nina Simone in the film “Island Empire,” packed special power in the hands of Fox and Henn. The whole concept of doing a whole show with the music from the films of one director is novel. The twosome, of course, put their own style and imprint on the music and lyrics, and hewed closely to their format of close, communication, thus weaving a haunting spell that helped make the act so different.
Among other song choices they explored were “Sixteen Reasons (Why I Love You)” from “Mulholland Drive;” ”Song to the Siren” from “Lost Highway;” “Falling” from the TV series “Twin Peaks;” “I Put a Spell on You” from ”Lost Highway;” “Ghost of Love,” which Lynch himself performed in “Island Empire;” “Mysteries of Love” from “Blue Velvet” and “The Magic Moment” from “Lost Highway.”
The choices were eclectic, although the overall mood tended toward solemnity with the odd vigorous breakout. For a unified two-person performance that is extra special, I’d recommend trying to catch the March 12 reprise, and anywhere else when the performance might take place in the future. At Stage 72 (formerly The Triad), 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-362-2590. Reviewed February 22, 2014.