by James Lindhorst
December 15, 2022
The Midnight Company will open its 2023 season with what is becoming the most highly anticipated event of the coming St. Louis theatre season. The company's first show is the world premiere of a theatrical cabaret show JUST ONE LOOK based on the life of pop superstar Linda Ronstadt written by Midnight's artistic director Joe Hanrahan. In the 1970s Ronstadt was the queen of the pop charts and would sell out stadiums worldwide. Ronstadt's hits included, "When Will I Be Loved," "You're No Good" "It's so Easy," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," "Blue Bayou" and dozens more hits that topped the pop charts. She was featured on the cover of The Rolling Stone magazine six times. When Cameron Crowe wrote his 1976 article for The Rolling Stone, Ronstadt had three consecutive platinum albums and there was no bigger name in music on the planet. BroadwayWorld had the opportunity to sit down with Kelly Howe who will play Linda Ronstadt and playwright, director and actor Joe Hanrahan who will play an aging reporter who finally gets his long-coveted interview with Ronstadt.
Hanrahan and Howe shared that for all of Ronstadt's commercial success and the household name that she once was, her absence from the music business has resulted in younger generations not having an awareness of her music. Ronstadt was forced into an abrupt retirement due to her battle with Parkinson's Disease that has robbed her of her voice. Howe said, "I'm finding that people in their 30's don't know who she (Ronstadt) is." Hanrahan shared that this production gives us the opportunity to educate the younger generation on an artist who had an amazing voice. Baby Boomers and early Generation X-ers, who remember her music, will have a great sense of nostalgia from this production and buy tickets based on their love of her music. But this production gives Hanrahan and Howe the opportunity to introduce an incredible catalogue of music to younger generations of music lovers and theatre goers who may be less familiar with Ronstadt's work.
JUST ONE LOOK was born out of the success of last's season show ST LOUIS WOMAN that was the first musical cabaret venture for Midnight Company. Hanrahan approached Howe and asked her if she would be interested in teaming up on another show in this style. It was the perfect meeting of the minds when they both identified that Linda Ronstadt would be an ideal subject for a biopic cabaret show with a theatrical narrative. That's when Hanrahan created the second character in the show, a fictional aging rock 'n roll reporter who has long loved Ronstadt and her music. The reporter introduces Ronstadt and drives the narrative of the singer's life and career, including the musical styles she conquered, her personal relationships with California Governor Jerry Brown and George Lucas, and her political activism that was bred from her relationship with Brown. Howe takes on the heavy lift of singing the catalogue of music from an artist with a prolific range.
When asked about taking on the role of Ronstadt, Howe shared, "When I was working in piano bars in New York City I would sing her music and try to emulate her voice." Howe shared that Ronstadt's big range can be intimidating and that the music that will pose her the biggest challenge is the music from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Ronstadt starred in the 1981 revival on Broadway and the subsequent movie version with Rex Smith and St. Louis' own Kevin Kline. Howe's favorite Ronstadt music to perform are her ballads "Long Long Time" and "Desperado." "I like her work as a balladeer, but I also love singing her rock stuff," Howe told BroadwayWorld.
Midnight Company is partnering with The Blue Strawberry Showroom and Lounge for this show because it is the perfect space for this production according to Hanrahan. It's a proscenium with elevated stage and has cabaret seating for about 100 people, Hanrahan shared. He said, "there is no space in St. Louis that is better suited for this production." The Blue Strawberry has the space to accommodate the band to back up Howe and allows for the space for the journalist character to advance the plot moving the narrative along.
The Midnight Company’s "Just One Look" is an Entertaining Tribute to a Musical Icon
by Michelle Kenyon / March 4, 2023
Linda Ronstadt is a musical legend. That's no question, considering all the accolades she's received over the years, including several Grammy Awards, a Kennedy Center Honor, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now, she's become the subject of The Midnight Company's latest production, written and directed by Joe Hanrahan and starring Kelly Howe as Ronstadt. On stage in a cabaret-like setting at the Blue Strawberry Showroom & Lounge, the show is an entertaining and informative look at Ronstadt's life and career, and especially her music.
The show is presented in an interview format, with Hanrahan as a music journalist named Lenny Anderson, who doesn't even attempt to hide his affection for his subject. Howe, as Ronstadt, answers Lenny's questions about her life, career, and attitude toward music, relationships, politics, and more--but mostly, she sings. If you're a fan of Ronstadt's, as I am, you'll know most if not all of the songs, from Ronstadt's first hit with The Stone Poneys, "Different Drum", through her country-pop-folk-rock years of arena tours with songs like "Long, Long Time", "You're No Good", "When Will I Be Loved?" and more, to her later years trying out radically different genres such as jazz-pop classics, operetta, and Mexican music in honor of her father. Howe sings the songs well, showing off an impressive vocal range and versatility, reminiscent of Ronstadt herself. She doesn't sound exactly like Ronstadt, but I wasn't expecting that. There's only one Linda Ronstadt, but Howe does an excellent job of singing in Ronstadt's style, and her mannerisms are similar to Ronstadt's, as well, from what I've seen in interviews and the excellent documentary "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice," which I highly recommend if you're a fan.
Hanrahan, for his part, does a fine job conducting the interview, even though his character can come across as intrusive at times, and he seems to be trying to do a British accent, but it's not consistent at all, and disappears entirely for most of the show. There's also an excellent band backing Howe as Ronstadt, led by music director Curt Landes on piano, and featuring Tom Maloney on guitar and bass, and Mark Rogers on percussion and backing vocals.
This show is an ideal fit for its venue, as well. The Blue Strawberry is known primarily for hosting cabaret shows, and it provides a lively atmosphere for this production. I had never seen a show at this venue before, and I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to seeing more productions there.
Overall, "Just One Look" is a memorable, entertaining musical tribute to one of pop/rock music's most celebrated voices. It's also an excellent showcase for Howe, who has an impressive voice of her own and plays Linda Ronstadt convincingly. Especially if you are a fan of Ronstadt's, this is a production well worth checking out.
Kelly Howe's Linda Ronstadt Soars in "Just One Look" at Blue Strawberry
by Sarah Fenske /
March 2, 2023
Linda Ronstadt is having a moment. Her heartrending “Long, Long Time” was featured on HBO’s The Last of Us - and if there’s any recipe these days for breaking through the noise to become a bona fide sensation, it’s being on the soundtrack of a hit HBO show.
If you were born after, say, 1975, you know Ronstadt, if you know her at all, as the wide-eyed presence on the cover of your parents’ old Pirates of Penzance cast recording or as the must-be-famous singer in a bolero jacket hamming it up on Sesame Street. You probably didn’t know she hung out with Mick Jagger and brought the Eagles together. You wouldn’t have known she was besties with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, much less connected her to top-40 hits as disparate as “Blue Bayou” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” You’d have no idea that — before she retired to San Francisco, before a disorder akin to Parkinson’s stopped her in her tracks — Linda Ronstadt was cool.
The new two-actor show at the Blue Strawberry, Just One Look, makes a terrific case that Ronstadt is more than just one song and more than worthy of your time. Written and directed by Joe Hanrahan, the Midnight Company’s 90-minute production expertly utilizes the venue’s tiny cabaret stage to keep the spotlight on Kelly Howe, who positively dazzles as Ronstadt. With a voice so powerful it nearly knocked out the sound system during last night’s premiere, Howe inhabits Ronstadt so completely she even seems to look like her, despite wisely eschewing the singer’s 1980s mop of hair for timeless bangs.
The setup is simple, as befits the stage: Longtime journalist Lonny Anderson (Hanrahan, channeling a cross between Joe Edwards and a British Ray Hartmann) indulges in his crush on Ronstadt, interviewing her at length about her hit songs. Lonny never really gets anywhere with the coquettish singer, but that’s not the point — he’s simply the setup to let Ronstadt belt out her favorite songs, and belt them she does. It’s an astonishing parade of hit after hit after genre-defying hit, ably assisted by Curt Landes on piano, Tom Maloney on guitar and Mark Rogers on percussion. (Landes and Rogers even manage to fill in for Parton and Harris on backup vocals for one song — no small feat.)
That this production is taking place at the Blue Strawberry adds to the fun. This isn’t the sort of intricately plotted play that requires audiences to sit still and focus. Instead, Howe’s beautiful vocals invite us to lean back, relax with a cocktail and remember the music we took for granted on the soundtrack of our youths. That the cabaret-style venue allows audiences to get dinner first, and keep drinking throughout the show, provides an apropos intimacy that only puts Howe’s talents in higher relief.
Yes, there’s the occasional crash of silverware in the hallway, and you might notice your server slip past to bring the adjacent table a drink. But sitting in the positively packed cabaret, with hits breaking over you like a tidal wave, you might fool yourself into thinking you’re seeing Ronstadt at the height of her powers in an intimate venue. Thanks to Howe, Hanrahan and the rest of this thoroughly enjoyable production, you can’t help but marvel — what a show that would have been!
by Gerry Kowarsky /
Kelly Howe is a splendid exponent of the Linda Ronstadt songbook in Just One Look by the Midnight Company at Blue Strawberry. Encompassing Ronstadt’s range is no easy task. In her long career, she embraced a wide range of genres— rock, country, the Great American Songbook, Latin, and operetta. Howe nails every style.
Just One Look is a hybrid show that incorporates theatrical elements into classic cabaret. The show has a script in which Howe portrays Ronstadt in addition to performing her songs. The playwright is Joe Hanrahan, who also directed and appears in the show.
Hanrahan plays Lenny Anderson, a music journalist who “covered them all back then.” He toured with Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones but never did get a chance to interview his great unrequited love, Linda Ronstadt. He calls her a rock goddess, the Venus of rock and roll. He says he fell in love with her with “just one look,” quoting the title of one of her best-known songs.
Lenny is first onstage. After giving a quick overview of Ronstadt’s career, he tells the audience he is about to fill in the one gap in his portfolio by interviewing of his idol, Ronstadt. It will, of course, be an imaginary interview. As Lenny tells us, Rondstadt is living in seclusion in her hometown of Tuscon, Arizona, where she suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease.
When Lenny says he just wants to talk about Linda’s music, Howe’s Ronstadt comes onstage. Lenny takes Linda and the audience on a chronological tour of her career. He does most of the talking, recounting events and introducing many other people who played a part in her life.
When Lenny takes Linda back to her past, she doesn’t say much. Instead, she is inspired to perform. In number after number, Howe’s singing makes her the Ronstadt of Lenny’s dreams.
In essence, Lenny supplies the connecting material cabaret singers usually furnish themselves. This way of building a show allows the vocalist to concentrate on the music while the narrator provides the insights normally found in a cabaret artist’s patter. Just One Look is a delightful evening, but if Hanrahan continues blending theater and cabaret, I hope he will bring more drama to the script.
The excellent band includes Curt Landes (music director/piano), Tom Maloney (guitar/bass), and Mark Rogers (percussion/vocals). Liz Henning brightens the show with her costumes.
The Midnight Company Blends Theater and Cabaret with Linda Ronstadt Show, "Just One Look"
by Mark Bretz /
March 6, 2023
Highlights: Joe Hanrahan, founder and artistic director of The Midnight Company, joins forces with cabaret impresario Jim Dolan and The Blue Strawberry for a 90-minute, one-act show that shines with Kelly Howe’s strong, beautifully modulated voice and her stylings of many of Linda Ronstadt’s greatest hits.
Journalist Lenny Anderson has interviewed plenty of top rock stars in his decades as a reporter covering the rock music scene, contributing to a multitude of media, including the fabled Rolling Stone. Up until now, though, he hasn’t made connections with one of the major crushes in his life, renowned songbird Linda Ronstadt.
That’s about to change, however. Anderson has caught up with Ronstadt, who is now retired to her hometown of Tucson, coping with the effects of Parkinson’s disease. When Lenny finally meets Linda, he waxes effusively about her noted singing abilities, and how her career encompassed not only rock ‘n’ roll but also country, mariachi music, lullabies, the Great American Songbook and even Broadway.
In between reminiscing about Ronstadt’s performances of such classics as “Blue Bayou” by Roy Orbison, “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” by Warren Zevon, “Different Drum” by one-time Monkee Michael Nesmith, and many others, they discuss Linda’s work in Joseph Papp’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” and her Broadway efforts, her collaboration with arranger Nelson Riddle on an album of Great American Songbook standards, and even performing “Back in the USA” with its writer and fellow performer, Chuck Berry, at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis.
They talk, too, about Linda’s personal life, and her relationships with former California governor Jerry Brown and George Lucas of “Star Wars” renown. As Lenny says, there are only two types of men: Those in love with Ronstadt, and those who haven’t met her.
Through more than 30 albums, including three No. 1 albums and 10 in the Top Ten, and collaborations with other musical artists on more than 120 albums, all it took was “Just One Look” to be captured by the Ronstadt mystique, which reigned supreme in the 1970s and ‘80s and beyond, still resonating today.
Other Info: “Just One Look” is best when Howe takes a song made famous by Ronstadt and shapes it with her own distinctive, highly effective stylizing. She holds her own while warbling such Ronstadt standards as “It’s So Easy to Fall in Love,” “When Will I Be Loved,” written by Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers, and the title tune, which was written by rhythm and blues artists Doris Troy and Gregory Carroll.
Like many others of her hits, Ronstadt brought her own unique interpretation to the lyrics, and in this show Howe delightfully replicates that effect. It was evident on opening night that the packed house at the Blue Strawberry truly appreciated her splendid musical efforts.
Less successful are the interludes between tunes. While Anderson faithfully fills in the blanks with notes and anecdotes about Ronstadt’s career and personal life, the non-singing portion of “Just One Look” too often seems like a Wikipedia entry. It doesn’t help that Howe’s acting in such moments is rather flat and stilted. Perhaps Ronstadt is annoyed by the fan-boy approach of journalist Anderson, and Howe plays into that.
Hanrahan has assembled a top-flight band to accompany Howe, led by music director and pianist Curt Landes, with Tom Maloney on bass and guitar and percussionist Mark Rogers ably handling backup vocals. All three of these veteran musicians doubtless are familiar with Ronstadt’s hits from the time they were on the Top 40 Billboard charts, and it shows in their smooth, fluid instrumental support.
Howe exits the stage occasionally, returning in another of costume designer Liz Henning’s attractive outfits. Regardless of what she’s wearing, “Just One Look” is at its best when Howe is re-creating the sound and appearance of the Ronstadt mystique, while also adding her own classy and sophisticated touch. Hearing is believing.
by James Lindhorst
March 2, 2023
The Midnight Company has partnered with Blue Strawberry Showroom and Lounge with an experimental show that is part cabaret act and part theatrical event with JUST ONE LOOK, based on the life and music of rock goddess Linda Ronstadt. JUST ONE LOOK is a narrative driven cabaret show told from the perspective of an aging rock reporter who finally gets to interview the female rock artist that he has long admired from afar. The star of this show is the songbook of Linda Ronstadt and JUST ONE LOOK will not disappoint the most zealous fans of the Queen of Rock.
The show opens as the audience meets Lenny Anderson, a fictional aging rock reporter played by writer and director Joe Hanrahan. The reporter introduces and interviews , played by Kelly Howe, and walks the audience through a chronological timeline of her career. Lenny narrates the story with witty banter back and forth between himself and Ronstadt, providing the framework for the hit music she made famous. Hanrahan has written a script that is light and fun with just enough back story to frame the rock icon's life.
Lenny's interview with Ronstadt begins in her home. As the singer begins to tell her story, she reverts to her younger self and begins performing her hit songs. The song set opens with one of the Stone Poneys first hits and continues with a couple dozen of Ronstadt's hit songs that would task the voice of any singer. Howe playfully engages with Hanrahan during the interview, but she electrifies the room with her massive voice as she tears into some of the most memorable rock 'n roll tunes of the 1970s. Howe delivers exceptionally on Ronstadt's most popular songs. She gives the audience the exhilarating experience of seeing a high-octane Ronstadt tribute concert in a small venue. Howe also shows immense range by taking on the varied styles of Ronstadt's music post her rock success, including operetta, country, classics and the Latin music that was inspired by Ronstadt's father.
Howe is backed by Music Director Curt Landes on Piano, Tom Maloney on guitar and bass, and Mark Rogers on percussion and vocal. Landes music direction is suited to the size of the room and provides the perfect accompaniment to support Howe's take on the music of a rock 'n roll legend. The band's exceptional performance and background vocals add to the nostalgia of the evening.
JUST ONE LOOK is just one night of exceptional music. It's a nostalgic rock 'n roll cabaret performance that is uniquely driven by a theatrical narrative and it works on every level. Hanrahan's vision created an entertaining way to present the music that goes beyond cabaret performance. But it is Kelly Howe's phenomenal delivery of Ronstadt's tunes that make for a most enjoyable night in a cabaret venue.