After a long career, Ann Dawson tells about her life with song selections that mark her professional and emotional journey in her lively, super-friendly show titled “Traveling Solo” at the Metropolitan Room, which I attended last night (September 6). She’ll perform there again at 7 p.m. on October 5.
To see and hear Dawson is a revelation. Although petite, she is a gale force of vocal power when reaching musical high points. Going for her is an effervescent personality enabling her to make an audience quickly warm to her. She also puts maximum feelings into her lyrics, enabling us to grasp every word and nuance. Her reddish hair, offset by a black two-piece outfit, helps make her a visual standout.
Dawson, rather than hide that she has been working at her craft for quite a while (think appearances on the Johnny Carson TV show and early Borscht Belt experience), she emphasizes it with often humorous tales about her life. She also has assembled a broad repertoire reflecting past work. One of her achievements of which she is obviously particularly proud was being in a production of “Funny Girl,” and she gives us a strong sample singing “I’m the Greatest Star” from that show.
Dawson opens with “But Alive,” revealing her still-with-it spirit. She does a tender job with “It Had to Be You,” and movingly sings of regret with “Where Was I When They Passed Out Luck?” Dawson sets an especially romantic mood with “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.”
She amuses with an account of in the early days wanting to inject comedy into her performances but was pressed to stick to music, exemplified by the number “Don’t Talk, Just Sing.” One of the songs into which she evidences particular enthusiasm is “Broadway Baby,” which could in a sense be her anthem.
In the latter part of her show, she reveals very personal feelings of regret about not having found enduring romance in her life, but asserting that the big affair she feels strongest about is her audience, and that performing is from which she derives her greatest satisfaction. That portion can get a bit maudlin, and yet it adds to the overall impression of sincerity reflected in virtually every song she sings. Dawson is very likable, and is someone who can be enjoyed for her enduring talent, her sense of humor about life and her admirable desire to keep on entertaining. Dawson is accompanied on piano by her musical director Tedd Firth and on bass by Robert Renino. The director of the show is Barry Kleinbort. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440. Reviewed September 7, 2016.