Nexus Arts
Until 15 Mar 2020

Review by Sarah Westgarth

It’s hard to go wrong with the works of Sara Bareilles. She is the singer-songwriting talent of hits such as “Love Song” and “Brave”, the composer behind the Broadway smash “Waitress”, and in 2018, delivered a critically acclaimed performance as Mary Magdalene in NBC’s live concert production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” She’s been nominated for Grammys, Tonys, and Emmys, and proven herself time and again to be a versatile and highly accomplished writer and performer. Her music is more than worthy of a cabaret show dedicated to her, and “Gravity”, serves as a joyful celebration of her work. Clearly a passion project of lead singers Kim Spargo and Kate Lewis, the two women lead their band, Collected Musicians, and supporting vocalists Voice of Transition, through some of Bareilles’ biggest and best songs. While not always polished, the show is loaded with enough charm and talent to leave the audience in high spirits.

The vocal talent of Spargo and Lewis is undeniable, especially when singing songs that are well suited for their range and individual styles. There are the occasional forgotten lyrics, a missed note, and moments that aren’t quite nailed, but they are few, and easily outnumbered by the numbers where everything works beautifully. Lewis’s powerful belt is something extraordinary, and used to great, soulful effect throughout the show. Spargo is not as strong, but has an authentic tenderness, on particular display in songs like “Manhattan.” The musicians are outstanding, and used brilliantly. The titular song is sung by guitarist Jacob Morris, and is one of the highlights of the night. When Voice of Transition lend their backing vocals to powerhouse numbers such as “Saint Honesty,” or lead the acapella piece “Kaleidoscope Heart” it is truly something special.

There isn’t much of a narrative or through line in the show; Spargo and Lewis occasionally bridge the songs with a line or two about Bareilles’s life or experiences, which is nice, but doesn’t add any insight into the songwriter’s inner world or deeper themes explored in the work. These segues also lack the ease and authenticity usually found in cabaret-style banter, and often come across as overly scripted and at times, a little awkward. I would have liked to see Spargo and Lewis attempt to explain why Bareilles’s music resonates with them so much, offering more of their own personality and story to the audience, to allow for more of an emotional connection to be made.

If you’re already a fan of Sara Bareilles, you will thoroughly enjoy the set list put together here, and the joy with which it is performed. If you’re unfamiliar with the work, the show serves as a great introduction to this incredible woman’s repertoire. The atmosphere in the room was electric during the final three numbers in particular, and served as a true celebration of the power of poignant and passionate music.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)