American Songbook Experience is the new show from Melanie Gall at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival(You can find show times by clicking this link. I missed her website blurb on the show, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After all, the American Songbook is quite wide ranging.
If you love the music of Gershwin, Berlin, Carmichael, et al, this is a show that will interest you. If you are unfamiliar with any of these songwriters, this show is a good introduction, but it is so much more.
The American Songbook Experience
It turns out that The American Songbook Experience is first and foremost the story of Jack Young. Jack Young was Ms Gall’s grandfather. A first generation Canadian, arriving from Europe with his parents in the early 20th century. He worked as a tailor, and construction worker.
Those activities paid the bills for his family. However, he had two great loves in his life. Music and his wife. While music was never his livelihood, he build a a great reputation as a local performer. He was known for having a particularly great singing voice, a quality that his granddaughter also possesses.
What makes show so special is the ways that the history of the American Songbook, the composers of those songs, and the life of Jack Young, his friends, and family blend together to form an entertaining, and moving story.
At it’s heart, The American Songbook Experience is a love story. I would even say a true love story. That is, no Hallmark soppy sentiment. Instead, it showcases a love, between Jack and his wife, that features commitment, sacrifice, and a life dedicated to the well-being of the other.
Music History and family History.
In telling this story Ms. Gall shows the songs of the American Songbook in a fresh light. She also uses them to provide a backdrop of the times that her grandfather grew up in. I found her rendition of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” particularly effecting, and a song we need to hear again for the world we are living in.
The story of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” is another one that complements Jack Young’s story. If there is ever a song that deserved the old Facebook, “it’s complicated” status, Beir Mir Bist Du Schon is it.
Ms. Gall continues to show growth in her story-telling. The American Songbook Experience, shows great talent in the interweaving of musical and personal history. As always her singing is terrific. Her sound is as clear and bright as ever, and she has the great gift of also getting out of the way when necessary, and simply letting the song speak for itself.
Finally, The Amrican Songbook Experience demonstrates the ways in which love transcends time, distance, and even death. Bring tissues, because the ending of the show may move you more than you expected. This is a show you must see.