If you see singer/actress Maxine Linehan doing her solo show on a Sunday or Wednesday through May 14 you are going to be living-room-style close to her, as she is performing in a the very intimate revamped space of the Terminus Recording Studios. And it is a pleasure to sit close to Linehan. With her sparkling, welcoming eyes and impeccable theater-quality voice, the transplanted Irish-born performer is special.
Her current program is “An American Journey,” a tribute through song to immigrants who have come to the United States to establish new lives, just as she did more than a decade ago. She intersperses her numbers with brief notes about her recently acquired citizenship, her husband and her children, all adding up to the happy life she reports that she has found here, although she does hold a soft spot for back-home Ireland, also reflected in song.
Linehan leads off her show, created and directed by Scott Siegel with Tracy Stark as musical director, with a lovely and loving rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” a fitting start for her musical journey.
Linehan doesn’t come off as a jazz stylist, but sings dramatically with a welcome directness and emphasis on feeling interpretations of lyrics, underscored with climactic finishes that further display her vocal effectiveness and passion. She has the kind of voice and acting ability just right for musical theater, which she has also done. I never saw her do Maria in “The Sound of Music,” one of the shows in which she has performed at various venues during her already substantial career, but it is easy to imagine her successful in the role.
In this outing she sings “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from “Sweet Charity” and “Sail Away” from the show of that title. She delivers a moving “Bali Hai” from “South Pacific,” “Anthem” from “Chess,”“What More do I Need?” from “Saturday Night” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” from “One Touch of Venus.” Casting directors take note.
Everything is neatly tied together without straining into her “An American Journey” theme, including changing the beat with “You Don’t Own Me,” a woman’s assertion of independence. There is also the very personal “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” stressing her happiness with motherhood. Perhaps her feeling for America is best expressed with her strong rendition of “The House I Live In,” written by Earl Robinson and made especially famous in a recording by Frank Sinatra.
I have a suggestion for the delightful Ms. Linehan. This is not meant as a criticism, but as a thought. As she kept repeatedly building the portrait of the joys of those who came to this country from all over, whether Ireland, Russia—you name it—thoughts inevitably crossed my mind about those who came under different circumstances and those whom our immigrants replaced.
Given the feeling person this artist shows herself to be, although it might be a brief counterpoint to the flow of her theme, it would be meaningful if she inserted a number reflecting those slaves dragged to America in shackles before eventually getting freedom, and another in tribute to the native Americans who were nearly eradicated by the influx of immigrants. Such numbers would add even more depth to her heartfelt vision of America.
But let me be clear. Her present program as it stands is exquisite in formulation and delivery. Linehan is an attractive, natural charmer with a gifted voice and the ability to pull us into her repertoire and perspective. At the Penthouse Suite, 723 Seventh Avenue (between 48th and 49th Streets). Tickets via theatermania.com.