Only the terminally intrepid Broadway songstress would begin and end her cabaret set with two Streisand classics. But Stephanie J. Block has both the voice and (figuratively speaking) the cajones for it. She only managed the first of her two shows at the New Players Theatre last night – a combination of sheer zeal and irritating dry ice did for the second – but as someone who has never caught any of her NY stage performances (“Wicked”, “The Pirate Queen”, and the recent “9 to 5”) her knowing bright-eyed personality and sensational vocal delivery were a complete knock-out. This is one of those theatre voices that can do it all – sing sweet and low, belt big and brash, and fold in that soprano top where the show tune demands it.
Her opener, “He Touched Me”, had all the Streisand ecstasy and then some – but this is a tougher, streetier, more in-your-face instrument and because Block is fearless and unstinting she puts herself on the line time and time again. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to nail her eleven o’clock number from Dolly Parton’s short-lived “9 to 5” – “Get Out and Stay Out” (full of sound and fury, yes, but frankly not the best hook that Dolly has come up with) – and then try to top it with “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. As she “marched her band out” at the climax of that number it was clear that all was not well.
But it had been a fun ride up until that closing moment with interesting novelties like the first version of the song that became “The Wizard and I” from “Wicked” – a number called “Making Good” which Stephen Schwartz had the good sense to know was neither as right or as good. Stephanie J. Block has made good. Let’s have her back – and soon.