In the words of a 1918 song, “There are smiles that make us happy,” andd now there is Tanya Holt with a smile that radiates and a voice that shines. Her one-night only show, “Forever Home,” at the Iridum, was an offering of romance, sass, jazz, pop delivered with the joyful love of entertaining. With a smoky voice and a vocal belt that’s a satisfying burst of clarity, Holt made the evening an appealing commitment between her eclectic song deliveries and her audience.
Speaking of commitment, she had some thoughts about that. She delivered a beautifully phrased delivery of Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You,” relishing the faint rhymes and drawing out the round sounds from the line, “You'll never know how slow the moments go…” After the romance of this classic ballad, she pulled out the sass for Gene DePaul and Don Raye’s “Daddy O; I’m Gonna Teach You Some Blues” prodded by some audacious eye contact with an unsuspecting gent in the audience. With dramatic expressiveness, Holt made clear her convictions clear straightening out that particular Daddy.
Two different sides of show biz linked “Woman on the Stage” with “Mr. Bojangles.” The first, written by Holt’s music director/pianist, Tracy Stark, tells about a performer with a cool conviction who knows the score, a woman with a purpose who lures the listener into her web with easy assurance. Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” is the other side of confidence, a country song with a built in sadness about a down-and-out hoofer who loves dancing but admits he “drinks a bit,” which lands him in jail. Things have never gone right for Mr. Bojangles and Holt delivered his story with subtle melancholy, demanding a respect and fondness for Bojangles without falling into pathos.
Holt shows the various facets of her song selections, bringing them a fresh aspect. A novelty theater standard from On The Town, “I Can Cook Too” by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein, emphasizes the song’s jazz rhythm and comic timing. She delivered it like a song Bessie Smith would have appreciated with lyrics like “My lamb chops will cause you to drool.” Holt chose songs that were hits for major stars like Whitney Houston (“I Have Nothing” by Linda Thompson and David Foster) and Barbra Streisand (“Gotta Move”). Pairing these two songs resulted in an authoritative duo of desperation. She was notable with “This Bitter Earth” (Clyde Otis), recorded by Dinah Washington. Holt shows the stress and phrasing that made Washington’s recording canon so valid and it would be intriguing to hear her do more of her songs. For Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “A House is Not a Home,” Holt brought up guest singer, Marcus Simeone, adding a more hip pop feel to the song. Also adding a pop update was her judicious use of melisma in songs like “Home is Where the Heart Is” and “Home” (Charlie Smalls) and also her pop-jazz encore of, “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington). Less successful was “Pick Yourself Up” (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields), which aimed for an optimistic ending for the show but the jazzed-up tempo blurred the message with confusion.
Holt is a mature and confident performer with a well-crafted sense of humor, sensitivity, and a personality that welcomes the audience. Active in various aspects of the cabaret community for the past several years, she obviously knows who to choose to support her music. The director here was Lennie Watts. The vibrant Tracy Stark on piano was accompanied by Jon Burr on bass and David Silliman on drums. Hopefully, a future show might focus on one of the various genres she illustrated so brightly in this show.