Amanda McBroom brings her Shakespeare loving musical numbers back to Rubicon
LADY MACBETH SINGS THE BLUES
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8 and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 9
Where: Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura
Information: rubicontheatre,org or (805) 667-2900
If “Hamlet” was a musical, what would Ophelia, Shakespeare’s tragic victim of circumstance, have as her number? Amanda McBroom knows, because her eponymous song started her on a songwriting journey that has resulted in “Lady Macbeth Sings the Blues,” making a cabaret-style return to the Rubicon some 15 years after it first premiered for two nights only.
The central premise is the same: a song cycle of show tunes dedicated to Shakespeare’s women, from Goneril to Kate the Shrew, exploring their psyche from a thoroughly modern standpoint.
“A lot of these songs came very fast because it felt like such an idea,” she said. “I didn’t even think of a theatrical piece. It was just fun to do.”
McBroom’s claim to fame is as the songwriter behind “The Rose,” which Bette Midler sang in the film of the same name. She has also had a stage career, starring in American and European productions of “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” as well as long list of film and television appearances.
The more play-like version of “Lady Macbeth” went from the Rubicon to New York, and then…on hold, as McBroom’s concert career took off.
“But it’s always been in the back of mind to try it as a concert rather than as a play,” she says. Karyln Burns of Rubicon invited to do just that so McBroom added songs, took dialog out, and streamlined it.
The premise of the play is that a lyricist is called in at the last minute to write songs for a musical version of ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ “set in Cuba to star Jennifer Lopez,” she adds. But instead of that, she winds up dealing with her husband, saying goodbye to a dying composer, battling the onset of menopause, and writing anything other than her assignment.
Despite the musical background, McBroom knows her Shakespeare. She has taken part in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and at the University of Texas.
“My dad was an actor and my mom was a drama teacher and they both loved Shakespeare,” she adds, “So since I was a kid Shakespeare has been dancing around our house.”
Her heroines are all modern though. Goneril is “crabby because she’s going through menopause,” and Lady Macbeth’s song is an epistle to sex therapist Dr. Ruth about her husband’s peculiar nature. She lists as her influences Jacques Brel and Harry Chapin.
“Songwriting to me is writing monologues,” she says.
McBroom wrote both lyrics and music for half the songs, with the others written with either Joel Silberman (who passed away last year) and Michele Brourman, her long-time writing and performing partner.
The other important partner in all this is the Rubicon, she says.
“They encourage writers, actors, and directors. They are a force for good in the world of theater. They love new stuff, and to give people a space in which to create.”
McBroom, who lives in Ojai, says after these two shows she would like to again take this on the road. But also, if anybody wants to cast her again in a Shakespeare play, she’s more than ready.
“I could play Queen Margaret in Richard III, and I could still pull Gertrude in Hamlet,” she says, then adds: “I’d love to play Prospero.”