This past weekend, triple threat theatrical talent Gia Mora returned to the DC metro area with her one woman cabaret act, interestingly titled Einstein’s Girl. Local theatregoers who have frequented the likes of Signature Theatre, Metro Stage, Ford’s Theatre, the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage and more likely know Ms. Mora for her strong, high soprano belt, and equally strong dancing and acting skills. It’s less likely they know that Gia is a bit of an amateur theoretical physics geek.
Physics and singing? Who would have thought? It’s certainly an unlikely mix of interests yet Ms. Mora beautifully brought these two passions – and more – together in her unique and highly original cabaret, which is making the rounds in venues in California, New York, and the DC area. With it, Ms. Mora delivered a mixture of contemporary patter songs and standards, along with original stories and commentary that explore the science of love in our increasingly interconnected yet lonesome world.
Clearly, the topic of love/romance has served as a foundation for many a cabaret. Though not a completely tired topic – after all it is universally relatable and multi-faceted – it can be met by many a groan for those looking for a cabaret that’s a bit different. Ms. Mora managed the unthinkable here – putting a fresh spin on the subject of love. Melding intellectual thoughts on topics as varied as black holes and supercomputing and devilishly funny commentary on the intersection between American obsession with technology and the search for love with sultry, jazz-infused vocals, she provided a convincing argument for why a cabaret about love/romance might not be so tired after all.
The success of Ms. Mora’s self-penned cabaret (with additional material from Brad Brown) is not only due to her strong thematic structure – though that’s certainly a key ingredient – but also her immediately relatable persona. From the time she appeared on stage to the encore number, she naturally commanded the stage and made one take notice not only when she was singing, but when she relayed her thoughts on the admittedly varied, yet connected subjects with spoken word. Having seen many a cabaret where the ‘in-between-songs’ banter was downright painful and awkward – and left me wondering when the performer would just sing – I am happy to report that there’s very little of that (if any) painfulness in this performance. She was simply charming.
Yet, sing she did. Backed by her equally talented music director on piano, Charlie Barnett, she more than proved her vocal versatility. From comedic, contemporary musical theatre-like numbers such as “Oh, Internet” (Hannah Hart), “I Google You” (Amanda Palmer/Neil Gaiman), and “The Facebook Song” (Kate Miller-Heidke), to more traditional standards like “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” (Harry Woods) and pop-rock numbers like “Fools in Love” (Joe Jackson), Ms. Mora comfortably delivered emotionally on-point vocals with technical precision.
While it would be difficult to point out some highlights, three particular numbers caught my interest for different reasons.
“Glorious Higgs,” (Michael Flanders/Donald Swann with lyrics by Danuta Orlowska), first performed by a bunch of physicists at CERN (a hotbed of physics research in Switzerland), comically considers issues of importance in – of all things – quantum physics. When’s the last time you heard a song about that? This song gave Ms. Mora an opportunity to ‘geek out’ so-to-speak on a subject of interest to her in an accessible way while entertaining the audience members with her playful vocals.
Though more than a few Broadway divas have included John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “The World Goes Round” (from New York, New York) in their respective cabaret acts, I appreciated that Ms. Mora put her own unique vocal spin on this fantastic number. As a result of her unique phrasing, textured vocals, and apparent connection with the lyrics, it was like hearing the song for the first time. She followed up this sensational vocal performance with an emotional take on “Second Star to the Right” (Sammy Fain/Sammy Cahn). This number displayed her quiet and contemplative side and was a perfect ending to her delightful act.
Running Time: About 90 minutes with no intermission. Einstein’s Girl was a one-night-only performance at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club – 7719 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, MD – on April 13, 2013. For a listing of Gia Mora’s upcoming performances, visit her website.