SUE MATSUKI: THIS BROAD'S WAY is a Love Letter to Broadway Dreams
Rickey Pope - Broadway World, September. 26, 2021
Sue Matsuki does Broadway her way. There is no more powerful force on earth than a dream deferred. Jazz singer Sue Matsuki came to New York from her hometown of Waterbury, CT to conquer Broadway. She had a trunk full of show tunes and a dream. But she found to her dismay that the carousel of auditions and cursory rejections was definitely not for her. She channeled her energies into creating shows for herself. And for years that's exactly what she's been doing, gathering a shelf full of awards along the way. She's performed in all the major cabaret venues in the city as well as in such high-toned places as Carnegie Hall and the Met. She is a respected teacher and the co-author of So You Want to Sing Cabaret. She created Jazz Brunch, a monthly cabaret open mic that has given a community of performers a safe space to develop material. Sue Matsuki is at the top of her game.
But Broadway dreams die hard. In her new show THIS BROAD'S WAY, which opened last evening at Pangea, she gets to sing all the Broadway tunes she ever wanted to sing, perform all the roles she would never be cast in, and do it all her own way. The songs are completely out of context and applied to her own experiences. "She infuses each tune with her own wry wit and her lovely and warm jazz stylings. She is one part chanteuse, one part monologuist, one part den mother, and one part suggestive vixen. And she is 100 percent fun. Her show is a treasure trove of swinging tunes and she has gathered a smoking trio of musicians in drummer, David Silliman, bassists Skip Ward and her longtime partner in art, musical director Gregory Toroian."
She kicked off her look at the Great White Way with two classic Broadway love songs. She shared a secret from her early days. She confided that she was always attracted to a rough crowd and that her dating life centered around biker dudes. She pivoted into full film noir mode. She brought back a device she had used in a show from several years ago for a four-song story arc. She asked her friends to anonymously submit letters about what gave them happiness and then she added songs. She read a letter from a woman who married twice in the 50's. Her letter detailed the failure of both of those marriages and how she eventually found happiness writing poetry and in the arms of a woman. "Matsuki depicted this fascinating woman with very smart readings of classic Broadway tunes. The centerpiece of the evening the story of her Scottish grandmother's gradual disappearance into Alzheimer's. Her performance was quite beautiful and quite heartbreaking and she offered a beautiful full-circle ending to her show."
Sue Matsuki may have never bathed in the Broadway limelight, but she is nonetheless center stage and doing quite well.
Sue Matsuki Had Her Broad’s Way with Humor and Plenty of Love at Pangea
By Marilyn Lester - NiteLife Exchange, October 1, 2012
Who doesn’t love a good pun? "And who doesn’t love a creatively put together cabaret show featuring a warm-hearted, multi-award winning singer and her long-time award-winning music director—plus a pair of choice sidemen?" Sue Matsuki at Pangea, with Gregory Toroian on piano, and Grammy-winner bassist Skip Ward and drummer David Silliman, served up an evening of showtunes with new twists in Matsuki’s This Broads Way. And of course, the pun is that all of the songs were from an array of Broadway musicals.
Directed by Lina Koutrakos, and with arrangements by "the Matsuki-Toroian collaboration, the array of numbers offered was inventive and well-constructed, with just the right amount of fun salting the meat of the show. The pair have been working together for nearly three decades, so their work is beautifully crafted and executed." Matsuki has a particular knack for humor and irony and “The Ballad of Swingin’ Todd” (arr. John McMahon, after Stephen Sondheim) was done very much Matsuki’s way, cleverly alluding to her seven (!) brothers (see below). Her introduction to the classic “Whatever Lola Wants” (Jerry Ross, Richard Adler), came with the wry note that the lyric made particular sense from a cat-owner point of view.
After the drought of no live shows during the pandemic lockdown, Matsuki was raring to go. How nice to be embraced at her re-emergance into live performing with a whole lot of love, namely “It’s Love/Love Walked In” (Leonard Bernstein, Comden & Green/George & Ira Gershwin). Then, with a bit of shtick, Matsuki’s “guilty pleasure” emerged with “Wanna Sing a Show Tune” (Ray Jessel). This Broad’s Way was a very personal show, one in which Matsuki referenced various high points (and low ones too) in her life. The narrative could have used a more cohesive through-line, but still, her text was authentic and delivered with heart. A poignant segment was a throwback to the singer’s early days, when the Connecticut-born and raised Matsuki had dreams of being on Broadway. The reality that she wasn’t destined for this career path was mirrored in “God Bless the Other 99” (Barry Manilow).
A delightfully high point, and an ongoing source of happiness, is Matsuki’s marriage. More about those seven brothers—their sister’s choices of boyfriends were widely scrutinized. But finally, her choice of husband proved to be universally approved and acclaimed, as in “From This Moment On” (Cole Porter). Matsuki also honored a beloved grandmother who drifted away and into Alzheimer’s disease with a remembrance both sad and humorous. She delivered this touching tribute in “Where or When/I Remember” (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart/Stephen Sondheim).
"Matsuki is one of the most hard-working and dedicated performers of the cabaret stage. If an audience could break into song as in the movies, the tune would be “Hello, Susan!” with its lyric, “it’s so nice to see you back where you belong.”