Marta Sanders, Chicken and Waffles

Marta Sanders “Follow Me”
Laurie Beechman Theater
Directed by Mark Nadler and Debra Zalkind
Music Direction by John McMahon
February 2, 2017

It’s a funny thing to discover something fabulous that the rest of the world has long known. Waffles and fried chicken for dinner, for example. It originated in 19th Century Pennsylvania Dutch Country and its current popularity sprang from nightclubs in 1930’s Harlem. To this Midwestern Irish Catholic, the chicken and waffles experience at Sylvia’s was one of my great discoveries of the 21st century. Never mind that everybody I told about it gave me the Rip Van Winkle look.
So it is with Marta Sanders. A friend invited me to the monthly Sondheim Unplugged show at 54 Below this past November. It was a terrific evening, great singers and songs. A new name to me, Marta Sanders, stole the show and commanded a standing ovation with “I’m Still Here.” I waxed ecstatic to my long time New Yorker friend who replied, “She’s a great broad. I’ve known her forever.”

A search of YouTube and Google Images narrows the Sanders definition of “forever” a bit. She appears in various MAC videos starting in the late 80’s, showing a variety of fashions and hair colors that attest to her longevity. Throughout the decades the size of the shoulder pads has changed but the truly dazzling smile has not.

Marta Sanders is a citizen of the world thanks to childhood years in South America and her career as a tour guide. She opened her show with the title song, weaving “Gypsy in My Soul” and “Gotta Move, Gotta Get Out” with the authority of an experienced wanderer.

She is a great storyteller with marvelous comic timing. The downside of this gift is that her humorous songs aren’t nearly as funny as she is. It was clear from the laughs a single introductory word or look provoked from her fans that her stories don’t get old in their telling.

Her throaty speaking voice transitions to a richly smooth alto with surprising upper register strength. She showcased her vocal and emotional range with “Bus from Amarillo,” a piercing, personal anthem about the downside of freedom without limits. She reprised “I’m Still Here” for her encore and the crowd stood and cheered mightily.

Such a fine show. May this great broad sing for another forever.

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