Discovering Dory – "Kate Dimbleby Sings the Dory Previn Story"
By: Paulanne Simmons
After Dory Previn’s husband, André Previn, left her for the much younger Mia Farrow, Previn, never very stable mentally, suffered a serious mental breakdown. When she had recovered, she embarked on a new career as the "Queen of 1970s confessional songwriters."
Kate Dimbleby and Amy Rosenthal’s "Beware of Young Girls," the show that celebrates Previn’s life and work, is also the title of one Previn’s most famous confessional songs. It might well be the lesson of a cautionary tale for woman. For despite Previn’s considerable talent, she remains the woman André Previn deserted.
If "Beware Young Girls" does little to destroy this image (in fact the show includes details of at least one other romance that ended similarly), it does give the audience at 59E59 Theaters occasional glimpses of another Dory Previn: a woman who could be funny, insightful and strong.
Thankfully, Dimbleby, an Englishwoman who never heard of Dory Previn until a few years ago, does not attempt to impersonate Previn, although she does occasionally step into her character. With the help of Naadia Sheriff, who plays he piano, aids in the storytelling and plays minor parts, she reveals character through narration and song. Slides of the major players in Previn’s life authenticate and illustrate the story.
The repertoire that flowed from Previn’s pen came just when it was most needed: the height of the feminist movement. "Perfect Man," "Mythical Kings and Iguanas" and "Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister?" perfectly captured the pain and defiance women of the time were struggling to express.
Dimbleby sings these songs with the emotion of one who understands and the critical distance of several decades. She is best on bluesy and quirky numbers like "Twenty Mile Zone," "Lady with the Braid" and "Stone for Bessie Smith." Sheriff, an accomplished pianist in both jazz and classical music, at times comes close to stealing the show with her virtuoso playing. But only at times.
Dimbleby is not afraid to engage in a bit of banter with Sherriff or take a walk into the audience. She is a polished cabaret artist who effortlessly turns a traditional theater space into an intimate venue. All that’s missing is the clink of glasses.
Beware of Young Girls: Kate Dimbleby Sings the Dory Previn Story runs through January 4 at 59E59 Theaters, (212) 279-4200 or www.59E59.org.