Reviews & Press

Theater

A Christmas Carol

The Providence Phoenix

"Speaking of singing, the trained voice of Rebecca Spencer is so beautiful it threatens to stop the action in its tracks."

~ Bill Rodriguez
Kansas City Star

"Mr. Houston has also penned a truly lovely ballad for young Ebenezer’s fiancé, Belle, which is unforgettably sung by Rebecca Spencer."

~ Robert W. Butler

Kismet Darien

Trumball Times

"Marsinah couldn’t have asked for a better form than Rebecca Spencer gives to her. Miss Spencer spins her songs with a wonderfully easy, beautiful, silken soprano."

~ Joseph Bronechen
Stamford Mail

 "The prize of the show is Rebecca Spencer playing Marsinah. Her voice is exquisite."

~ Elizabeth G. Gershman
WMNR Fine Arts 88.1 FM

"At the opening of Kismet at the Darien Dinner Theatre, Rebecca Spencer, a young and beautiful soprano who plays the part of Marsinah, stopped the show. Her voice and demeanor sent chills through the audience."

~ Rosalind Friedman

Sweeney Todd (Multiple Productions)

NY Times

"Rebecca Spencer’s glistening soprano suggests that she could scale the heights of a Donizetti opera bouffe."

~ Alvin Klein
The Tampa Tribune

The lead paragraph from The Tampa Tribune
Shirley in the national tour of LADY BE GOOD
"There are few songs as shimmeringly, provocatively lovely as George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’. And this week, you can hear Rebecca Spencer do it solid soprano justice at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The Lady is good. At Wednesday’s opening, Spencer posed each weeping wistful lyric with such sure-voiced finesse that many of the well-dressed, frequently talkative audience actually shut up and listened."

~ Porter Anderson

42nd Street

MD Theatre Guide

 "Rebecca Spencer expertly sung and acted the part of washed up star, Dorothy Brock.  Her strong voice carried well throughout the theatre – and she was able to convey great emotion during the quieter scenes, including those with Julie Kavanagh, who played Peggy Sawyer, the young starlet-to-be from Allentown, PA"

~
Syracuse New Times

"Dorothy is not an unrewarding role as it might appear, as she leads in four numbers, including the solo “Getting to be a Habit with Me.” Rebecca Spencer, also new to MGR, brings extensive national credits but appears very much in her prime. Appropriately a boastful harridan in the early scenes, her Dorothy later bonds with Peggy in the duet “About a Quarter to Nine.”

~
Syracuse.com

"Spencer’s Brock demonstrates considerable range with “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me” and her heartfelt duo (with Kavanaugh) titled “About a Quarter to Nine”. 

~
Ithaca Times

"Spencer and the ensemble do great things with a few well placed spotlights for "Shadow Waltz" and Spencer has another dynamite moment singing in front of another of Lim's period-perfect Deco screens, and in a nifty turn, we see through a sheer scrim all of the "backstage" moments while "Pretty Lady" is being road-tested."

~ Bryan VanCampen

S'Wonderful

S'Wonderful at MTW

"The second section takes place in New Orleans, 1957, and includes more-serious pieces “Summertime” and “The Man I Love,” powerfully delivered by Spencer."  -  Arts in LA

~
S'Wonderful at MTW

"Music lovers adore all these songs...and it won't take you long to warm up to these thrilling performers who sing them...Rebecca Spencer so fine as Rosemary. This lady has such a great set of chops, a belter with a deliciously cultured vocal richness."Grigware Reviews 

 

~ Don Grigware
S'Wonderful at MTW

“S’ Wonderful benefits enormously from its cast of some of L.A.’s most gifted triple threats. Spencer (recently The Music Man’s scene-stealing Eulalie Shin) reveals the sultriest pipes in town in ‘Summertime’.”  -  StageSceneLA

~ Steven Stanley

The Heir Apparent

The Heir Apparent

 “A little cream puff of a play… farcical shenanigans and travesties that add up to considerable fun.” - Cultural Weekly

~
The Heir Apparent

"All the ingredients for success...highly engaging" - LA Times

~
The Heir Apparent

"thouroughly winning and diverting - a well-oiled comedic clock whose intricate workings gain precision from Matt Walker's crisp direction and first-rate cast" - OC Register

~

MTW Music Man

Orange County Register

"Rebecca Spencer is a wonderfully over-the-top scene-stealer as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, the River City mayor's wife"

~
BroadwayWorld: Music Man

Rebecca Spencer as his wife Eulalie slays, she is such a hoot in her 'dancing' scenes.

~ Don Grigware
StageSceneLA: Music Man

Joey D’Auria and Rebecca Spencer simply could not be funnier as Mayor Shinn and Mrs. Eulalie Mackecknie Shin without once resorting to imitating the inimitable Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold. Simply put, D’Auria’s blustering bag of wind and Spencer’s outrageously overbearing diva steal every scene they’re in.

~ Steven Stanley

HMS Pinafore

Scottsdale Tribune

"Rebecca Spencer makes for a playful, voluptuous Buttercup. Her warm soprano is well used on "I'm Called Little Buttercup" and "Things are Seldom What They Seem". She uses a knowing playfulness to good stead as she advances the musical's plot."
Zoni Award Nomination 

~ Max McQueen

Most Happy Fella

The Palm Beach Post

"Rebecca Spencer gives a particularly well-sung, intelligent performance. The original score gives her a chance to reveal her inner feelings, and Spencer makes the most of it."
Carbonelle Award Nomination 

~ Hap Epstein

Yeston Phantom

The Poughkeepsie Journal

"Rebecca Spencer has an ethereal appearance which houses a voice of polished platinum."

~ Rachel Cassidy

Music Man

The Providence Journal

 "Easily the best musical production to play Rhode Island in several years. Rebecca Spencer brings a glorious, beautiful controlled soprano to Marian. When she sang the theatre was quiet as if empty, with everyone not wanting to miss a note."

~ William K. Gale

Kismet

The New York Times

"Miss Spencer, who looks as fresh and innocent as the Caliph thinks she is, makes the gems glow in "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and could draw tears from a stone in the reprise of 'Stranger in Paradise'."

~ D.J.R. Bruckner

Alley Jekyll and Hyde

The Houston Post

 "Rebecca Spencer’s crystalline soprano brought both lilt and moxie to Lisa’s songs (including) a haunting “Once Upon a Dream”."

~ William Albright
The Houston Chronicle

"Rebecca Spencer is striking in the part: beautiful, womanly. with a fine soprano and a firm sense of character."

~ Everett Evans

Phantom LV Spectacular

Las Vegas Review-Journal

There's lots of talent on display at 'Phantom -- The Las Vegas Spectacular,' but the person I can never stop watching is Rebecca Spencer…The actress gets to show her sensuous side in a new CD, Fair Warning, and it's difficult to believe that this passionate vocal performance comes from the same body and soul as our Madame Giry.

~ Anthony Del Valle
Albums

Still Still Still

Phil Hall - (Broadway Conductor/ Musical Arranger/ Composer / Vocal Coach)

Having just finished listening to Rebecca Spencer's new incredible Christmas CD, "Still, Still, Still," I felt compelled to sit down to write to praise it. First off, I love the picture and the front cover of the CD. She looks like a traveler who has set out on a journey to understanding the many meanings of the Christmas season.  It is a marvelous collaboration between her long-time friend and colleague, extraordinarily-talented pianist and arranger, Philip Fortenberry. The artistry between the two of them is magnificent. You simply cannot tell when one stops, and the other takes over--it is that seamless.  Keith Thompson is also credited with the orchestral arrangements, which are perfect. The CD is a delicious mix of the both the celebration and the mystery of Christmas.

In her notes about the CD, Rebecca states "each through-composed arrangement was conceived as a tone poem," and that's exactly what it feels like when listening to this glorious CD. Often Fortenberry will use a different, but related song to lead into the song Rebecca is actually singing--like Samuel Barber's "Sure On This Shining Night" which leads into "Silent Night." Or Dave Grusin's hauntingly beautiful reflective music from the movie, "On Golden Pond." Although the CD includes some familiar Christmas songs, Rebecca has reached outside the box to give us other songs for our consideration, and their appropriateness for inclusion on a Christmas CD. And right she is! Rebecca--who has an extraordinarily big singing range uses exquisite restraint and sings in her toasty, warm lower range--always in the service of whatever songs she has chosen to sing on this beautiful CD. She could have hauled off and sung into the rafters, but one gets the sense of how "still, still, still" she remains in serving the mood of the music of the season, which gives her CD the same warm, satisfying feeling that Karen Carpenter often did to her listeners--you felt Karen was in a room with no one else but you.

 It also feels like she's taken a page from the Barbra Streisand songbook in how the entire CD is conceived, arranged, packaged, and sung. Streisand wants you to have a complete "experience" with her CDs, and Rebecca's CD gives you the exact same feeling. You feel like you've serendipitously been plopped down in an intimate, magical Christmas concert at a small candle-lit chapel by two artists at the height of their artistry, and you walk away feeling you came away with more than you imagined possible.

 After listening to this CD, you feel like you're the luckiest person in the world for having heard it. If you're looking for a gift for the heart, I can't recommend this CD highly enough. Don't miss it. And, even if you don't give it as a gift, don't miss the opportunity to get one for yourself. Once you hear it, you won't be able to stop playing it.

~ Phil Hall

Fair Warning

Cabaret Scenes Magazine

Rebecca Spencer follows up her absolutely gorgeous 2003 album, Wide Awake and Dreaming, with a new dozen-song offering that is even better. There is something unavoidably entrancing about her voice, whether she’s lowering the register and enticing us with a sexy allure or lightening the sound and captivating the ear with the elegant beauty of her tones. And when you add in Philip Fortenberry’s exceptional piano arrangements and accompaniment, the effects are dazzling.

With the melody of the traditional Shaker song Simple Gifts setting the mood, Spencer launches into a richly powerful performance of The Girl Who Used to Be Me that’s the most effective and affecting version these ears have heard. From there, Spencer, Fortenberry and Keith Thompson’s luxuriant cello orchestrations craft a musical voyage of surprising stops as they mix an artful take on Stardust/Deep Purple and spine-tingling interpretation of Summertime with a reflective You Must Love Me and less country-flavored version of Lorrie Morgan’s Something In Red. But as fine as these selections are, it’s in the unknown territory that Spencer takes us where we experience the most amazement. A quartet of songs by Thompson allow Spencer to truly wow us -- the housewife’s lament found in the artful Instead (wonderfully supported by Chopin Nocturne in E flat, Op.9 No. 2), the lovely theatre homage The Memory, a woman’s observations on life around her expressed in Virginia’s Response and the rousing Eat, Drink and Be Mary.

So what do all these songs have to do with each other? The collection was inspired by a group of women Spencer observed in Weston, Vermont who call themselves “The Red Hat Society,” all of whom dress in purple and wear “radiant red hats” and hold to the philosophy that life is just beginning at age 50. Well, Spencer’s musical celebration of life is certainly a fitting soundtrack for them. (****)

~ Jeff Rossen
Talkin’ Broadway’s Sound Advice

With the underlying theme of living life fully, with familiar tunes woven through instrumentally, this album, too, has the feel of a song cycle. In her liner notes, Rebecca says what is attempted is "a tapestry of music with contemporary art song interpretations." The tapestry she has created works like a strongly reflective story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. The cello playing throughout the album holds everything together and is a beautiful asset and anchor. The ethereal beauty plus power will come as no surprise if you're familiar with Rebecca from her work on cast albums or her first solo CD, the delightful Wide Awake and Dreaming. You'll know she's a soprano with range and power. She takes chances and has a taste for the unusual and the traditional. Working again with versatile pianist/musical director Philip Fortenberry, the elegant pair mix the very well-known (here, Summertime and Stardust) with the unexpected. There are four premieres, all with music by Keith Thompson who also did the cello orchestrations. The rich recital succeeds in delivering its message of embracing and appreciating the important things in life. This album, which the artist's liner notes prominently states is "dedicated to the human spirit," is not a project tossed off casually. Formal? Certainly. Earnest? Quite. And also quite moving.

~ Rob Lester
Las Vegas Review-Journal

…a sensuous and passionate vocal performance – a quietly classy album

~ Anthony Del Valle

Wide Awake and Dreaming

Cabaret Scenes Magazine

A dreamy collection of songs that pick up the listener and carry you away....reveries that touch the heart and intoxicate the mind. Working with Fortenberry on the arrangements, Spencer quite obviously not only knows just how these songs sound in her head but also transfers those musical images to this recording through Fortenberry’s glorious keyboard interpretations.

~ Jeff Rossen
Show Business

Rebecca Spencer’s been one of Broadway’s best kept secrets, but with the release of her debut CD, those days are over. Spencer’s voice is a lustrous legit soprano with power to burn and high notes that are jaw dropping. Philip Fortenberry’s work is ravishing.

~ David Hurst
The Monthly Herald (London/Paris)

Her recent CD redefines romanticism, vocal virtuosity and human warmth for the world of contemporary cabaret.

~
Back Stage CD Picks of 2003

A stunner of an album, revealing an artist on the verge of a serious breakthrough. This bodacious disc revels in opulent images from an artist who, at times,recalls the likes of Maureen McGovern and Barbara Cook in their prime.

~ John Hoglund
Concerts

Fair Warning

Cabaret Scenes Magazine: Fair Warning at Vitello's

Rebecca Spencer’s powerful soprano could have overwhelmed Vitello’s, but she wisely scaled it to the size of the room and the material she was singing. Her unique accompaniment by Musical Director Philip Fortenberry, combined with an imaginative selection of songs and stunning vocal performance, resulted in a joyous musical experience.

The unusual choice for an opener of “Speak Softly, Love” (Rota/Kusik) was delivered in a soft, haunting voice that created a dark mysterious mood, as she emerged from the dark into her light. Echoing that mood, Fortenberry punctuated his accompaniment with touches of Rachmanioff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. This pairing of standards and contemporary songs with classical references continued effectively throughout the show. Fortenberry’s counterpoint melody of Aaron Copeland’s “Simple Gifts” nicely complemented Rebecca’s beautiful take on “The Girl Who Used to Be Me” (Hamlisch/the Bergmans) from Shirley Valentine. Some lighter fare, such as “Eat, Drink and Be Mary” (Keith Thompson) and her closer, “Home Sweet Heaven” (Martin/Gray) from High Spirits, served to add some variety to her repertoire.

The entertaining patter about her association with the songs and her musical theater career provided just the right personal touch to the evening. This was her L.A. solo cabaret debut, and a wonderful start it was.

~ Les Traub
BroadwayWorld

On Friday August 15 singer/actress Rebecca Spencer made her Los Angles concert debut with Fair Warning at Upstairs at Vitello's with her long-time collaborator Philip Fortenberry as musical director, also making his LA debut.

As the press release states Spencer's signature has become unique arrangements that fuse both classical and contemporary expressions of the art song, along with the romantic American Songbook, Broadway, film and popular music. She has two CDs. The first Wide Awake and Dreaming won a BackStage Bistro Award for Excellence in Cabaret Recording and the latest Fair Warning provided the title for her LA concert.

Spencer is a vital actress/woman who lives through the music one beat at a time, in the moment, infusing every lyric with deep feeling. Like any good actress, she loves what she does and sprinkles, like magic dust, the fruits of that aura over everyone around her. She is consistently real, no pretense here, as she finely paces her ruminations and copiously shares those pleasant rich memories. She moved from center stage stage left a couple of times during the 85-minute set where there was a divan for her to sit on. It was if she were holding court in her own living room, she was that relaxed, personal, gracious and highly spirited. With a delightful laugh that colors her comments on her association with Marvin Hamlisch or Ragime or Jekyll & Hyde, she possesses a rich soprano that often stretches to the contralto range, and on occasion surprisingly even lower..to, I swear I heard a few bars in the bass range emanating from her. What a classy and joyful performer!

Fortenberry rocked the house with a Rodgers and Hammerstein Medley that included "Sound of Music", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Younger Than Springtime", "If I Loved You", "Honey Bun" and an incredibly dazzling display of artistry with "Oklahoma", "Nothing Like a Dame" flowing magically with near to perfect rhythmic dynamic into "Do Re Mi". His transitions from one song to the next are amazing. He is a true artist...and he and Rebecca Spencer, after a collaboration of many years...belong together.

I don't like to use the word diva, unless it refers to opera, where it originated, or unless I'm exaggerating a performer's excessively strong demeanor, but Rebecca Spencer stands out as a quiet diva, a classy and down.to.earth mother, who is bound to leave her lasting mark on LA just as she has everywhere else. She's remarkably adept in every way, elegantly stunning...a truly unique artist on the cabaret scene. Welcome! 

~ Don Grigware

From Broadway to Las Vegas

MacPherson Opera House

March 19, 2011

Dear Fellow Arts Presenters:
The first thing to know about “From Broadway to Las Vegas” is that it is NOT a medley of Broadway’s greatest hits! It is musical theatre; thus the show’s division of Acts I and II. Although tightly scripted the show moves on with marvelous ease and naturalness but always with theatrical flair. Given Rebecca Spencer’s and Philip Fortenberry’s extensive Background in musical theatre, the musicianship is impeccable. Rebecca’s asides between musical numbers take the audience through the stage door for an insider’s look at Broadway.

Rebecca and Philip’s performance at the McPherson Opera House was their maiden voyage with this all new show, and I, as Executive Director, can truly say that “ From Broadway to Las Vegas” is one of the best shows we’ve ever presented. The post-show audience response in conversations with me was exceptionally positive. As Jack Lord used to say on Hawaii Five-O, “book’em Danno.”

~ John Holecek, Executive Director

Rebecca Spencer in Concert

Odette's Concert in New Hope, PA

Dressed in a stunning black velvet strapless gown with full length gloves, Rebecca Spencer was the epitome of elegance as she took the stage in the Cabaret Room at Odette’s in New Hope one recent Sunday evening. Before a sold out room of friends, acquaintances and those just curious about all the buzz she has generated, Rebecca presented a show to celebrate the release of her debut CD, Wide Awake and Dreaming on LML Music.

Rebecca captured the audience right from the opening notes of the title track. No stranger to the stage, her theatrical background is evident, with appearances including the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde. Nonetheless, Rebecca was able to easily transition to a small intimate space with eloquence. She captured the audience’s emotion with her delicate phrasing, dramatic staging and complete understanding of the material. Billed as a “dreamy collection of songs that pick up the listener and carry you away,” the show ranged from soft wistful ballads to more emotionally charged belting songs.

Rebecca’s voice, that of a legitimate lyric soprano, was always in complete control whether she was singing art songs as with “The Willow Song” or Broadway tunes such as “Where I Want to Be” from the musical Chess. Confident and assured, Rebecca Spencer will be seen on the cabaret stage for years to come. She was able to take a Broadway ballad and make it sound almost operatic as she did with “Moonfall” from The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Most impressive was the combination of “On My Way to You” with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” which was sensitive and moving. While possessing a breathtaking voice, much of her success is due to the glorious accompaniment of Philip Fortenberry. His arrangements for Rebecca are perfect and his piano interpretation is exquisite. I suspect we will be hearing much more in the days and years ahead.

~ Richard Edgcomb and Stephen Hart
BackStage Bistro Bits: Divas and Decadence

Speaking of things that compel, I mean it as the highest praise when I say that newcomer Rebecca Spencer may be the most distracting performer in cabaret. I find it almost impossible to stay in the room with her. Her lilting soprano and subtle shadings, along with amazing musical director Philip Fortenberry’s rhapsodic arrangements, made her two recent shows at Mama Rose’s one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen in a decade. Every crystal-toned note took the listener on an intensely dreamy journey of discovery. While she is a Broadway veteran (she played Lady Beaconsfield and Guinevere in Jekyll and Hyde) and new to intimate rooms, I predict this golden-voiced lady is going to be a household name in a short time.

Celebrating the release of her beautiful new CD, Wide Awake and Dreaming, which I glowingly reviewed on Jan 2, the SRO house, filled with many theatre folks, cheered her on as if she could do no wrong. They were right. And it doesn’t hurt that she bears a resemblance to Nancy LaMott. A lyric soprano with a plaintive pianissimo that can melt to a whisper, Spencer shined singing songs from her album. The symmetry between her and musical director-arranger Fortenberry couldn’t be better. The show was an example of collaboration at its finest. At times, it all resembled a recital of art songs fused with lighthearted musical comedy. She’s warm, with a delightful presence that lights up the room. Like any newcomer to cabaret making the change from the large stage to an intimate venue, Spencer had to adjust to the confines of cabaret. She did so with ease. Her voice is such that, like LaMott, she could sing the phone book in Gregorian chant and it would work. She has wisely nailed the art of delicate phrasing, turning a simple reading of a fusion of “On My Way to You” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman-Legrand) and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Porter) into a masterpiece of passion. Remember the name and do not miss her next show while she’s still affordable.

~ John Hoglund
Montana Concert Tour

April 2, 2012

Dear Rebecca and Philip,
This letter is in grateful appreciation for your amazing concert held on March 11, 2012 at our venue for our new Cabaret venture in Helena, Montana. We are about to complete our first season of five shows. 

When we saw you at a showcase at the end of January 2011, we were immediately awe-struck! A powerful presentation in a 12 minute window had our hearts racing as we watched and listened to you perform. We had an immediate reaction – “This duo absolutely MUST perform for our community. They deserve to be heard!” The challenge at the time was that we had nothing planned for a venue, for a concert or for any kind of program as we had no organization in place, having just left behind my association of almost 30 years with another group. However, I told my husband, “We have over a year before they come to Montana, and we’ll find a place and a piano.” And with that statement, we signed an agreement to bring you to Helena with no idea where or how things would fall into place! 

A few months went by, and we signed an agreement and returned a deposit, still unsure of how or where we were going to produce a show! Eventually with a lot of effort, passion, a dream and a goal, we created a new endeavor with a name, a rented venue, a series of shows….all built around our first wish to have you perform in Helena, Montana. The brochures were designed and mailed, and patrons began to join our dream….and then the time came just five months before your arrival when we opened our doors to a crowd who was hungry for an evening of entertainment. 

There were several hurdles we had to cross to present you within Starz on Stage, mainly locating a piano for the venue! The days went by, and you arrived for your Montana tour. Your zeal for your music was obvious as we laughed and visited over dinner. There was NO ego involved with either of you, and that factor endeared you to us even more, and we were thrilled once more to know that our audience was going to be given a first-rate performance. 

The crowd filled up the venue, the excitement brewed, and the piano was in place!! The first notes were played, the first lyrics were sung, and then the magic spread as our audience members watched and listened as you brought everyone into your web of enchantment. There were many times when I almost cried as your delivery was so magical, and watching the two of you, it was clear your musical connection was beyond the norm. As I looked around the crowd, I noticed that people seemed to barely even breathe, and they were almost stopped-in-time. All eyes were on the stage. You had cast a spell, and the patrons were captivated. The evening was a monumental success, and in all the years I’ve been involved in the entertainment business, it has been extremely rare to see people on their feet and applauding in-between songs and before a song was ended. This was one of those rare occasions. When the concert was over, instantly the crowd arose, and the demand was apparent for more, more, more. 

The two of you have a very uncommon thread between you as a duo on stage. The evident mutual respect is apparent to your audience and fans. You are not simply a duo – you have created true magic, and I say again….you cast a magical spell on our audience. Your talent as individuals and as a duo are a complete package, and any producer or presenter that is deliberating on whether or not to have you as part of their series or concert offerings needs to simply say… “yes”. To not do so is a disservice to their audience members, and they are cheating their own patrons from a memorable, musical, magical experience that does not come often in our lifetimes. Rebecca and Philip, as the producers of Starz on Stage, we are eternally grateful to you, for taking the chance to come to a Montana conference, and for bringing us true, complete joy with your “From Broadway to Vegas” concert as part of your Montana tour. May you always be safe in your travels, and may you bring your music to the masses all over the world! The people are waiting for you! 

With admiration and thankful hearts,
Gary and Joy Novota
Starz on Stage Productions

~ Gary and Joy Novota
Cabaret Scenes Magazine: Mama Rose's, NYC

Of the many extraordinary aspects of Rebecca Spencer's debut cabaret performance, perhaps the most wondrous is that her dazzling showpiece at Mama Rose's, Wide Awake and Dreaming, was indeed her very first on a cabaret stage. Alluring in a black, off-the-shoulder gown, she matched her cover girl looks with talent, making good use of a theater background to infuse her singing with dramatic staging and understanding. She and Philip Fortenberry, her impassioned accompanist and musical director, had more than ample time to polish the arrangements while they cut a CD half a year earlier, but it was more than rehearsals that allowed her to so capture her audience. Spencer has a glorious voice--a soaring, affecting and versatile soprano, equally effective in the lower registers. From opera to Cole Porter, Spencer was in her element. And with tech director Michael Barbieri's imaginative lighting design, the effect was almost magical.

~ Peter Leavey
Recordings

Still Still Still

Cabaret Scenes Nov 2017 Review

Rebecca Spencer has always been a storyteller in a league with the likes of Christine Andreas and Barbara Cook. Here, she shines a light on intelligent, worthy holiday-themed songs that otherwise might have been overlooked. Along with collaborator Philip Fortenberry, she fuses them medley-style with traditional and classic gems. She also ventures into some obscure territory that many other singers wouldn’t chance. Her well-chosen offerings are pluperfect, starting with the impeccable production value of the recording itself, which is obvious from the first chord.

Not every singer gets to record using the same soundboard created for Michael Jackson on his Thriller album. Spencer did and, under the brilliant guidance of gifted arranger-pianist Fortenberry and her intelligent musicians, the results are exceptional on Still, Still, Still, a pristine collection of holiday songs that sound like classics from another era.

Mixing 25 traditional and contemporary hymns, classics, and originals in the lineup, it all celebrates the holiday spirit in the best way—at a time when it is needed most. After what has obviously been a loving process, Spencer and her team came up with an imaginative narrative and sound that echoes a cathedral with tone poems on winter themes.

Opening with Fortenberry’s majestic chords heralding “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” it’s obvious that this angelic mezzo is in the best of hands. Throughout, most of the cuts are performed like olde English art songs. This is particularly so on a warmly sung medley joining “There’s Still My Joy” with the traditional “O Tannenbaum.” Other nuggets range from a prayerful “walk-on-in-spite-of-everything” type canticle, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” with an infectious music box underpinning on a fugue-like theme of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” that slides into the traditional classic beauty with Spencer’s ethereal vocals. Simplistically, the disc becomes a humble reflection of the human hope that the season offers.

“Sure on This Shining Night” is achingly beautiful with a riveting piano intro leading into a cello supporting Spencer on “Silent Night” that suggests the vocal equivalent of a slowly unfolding flower. Other exceptional standouts include: the title cut paired with Beethoven’s “Pathetique”; the bucolic theme from the movie On Golden Pondleading into “Would It Still Be Christmas?.” The premiere of Keith Thompson’s “Peace for Christmastime This Year” is a beauty that is refreshing, timely, and contemporary “…this song is so simple, the message is clear—let there be peace on earth this Christmastime this year….”

There’s more on this disc that spans the centuries and brings it home to the world we live in. And, it’s all about as perfect as a Christmas album can be.

Not enough can be said about the sheer beauty of Fortenberry’s arrangements (some conceived with Spencer) and his prodigious keyboard touch. This recording is the definition of collaboration at its finest. Other superb musicians include Moonlight Tran (cello) and Eric Tewalt (soprano saxophone), with Thompson serving as orchestral arranger for cello and soprano sax.

 

~ John Hoglund