Sitting in the audience of To Be or Not To Be In Love – That Is The Question?, a one-woman cabaret starring writer-choreographer Beverly Merella, might be the modern equivalent of attending a Florence Foster Jenkins concert. In spite of more than a few missed notes, the dynamic Ms. Merella charms the audience with her vibrant storytelling and warm personality.
To Be or Not To Be…, described as a musical monologue, consists of popular standard songs strung together with narrative monologues about “Lola” and her rocky journey to find love. Director Anamer Castrello uses a few pieces of furniture and some clever costume changes to help illustrate Lola’s story.
As Lola, Ms. Merella brings an engaging star quality as storyteller. Bedecked with blue hair and dazzling shoes, she captivates her audience and encourages a dialogue with them throughout her performance. Lola’s story is clearly personal to Ms. Merella. She opens her heart and shares anecdotes that ring with honesty.
In terms of musicianship, however, Ms. Merella doesn’t fare quite as well. Her pitch wavers in the opening songs “When You Believe” and “The Man I Love.” In a surprise turn, Ms. Merella reveals more solid classical soprano chops in “Iciba,” “Queen of the Night,” and “Glitter and be Gay.” The audience at this performance was not deterred by any musical shortcomings, they granted Merella a swift and unanimous standing ovation. In the tradition of Carol Channing and other star performers, Ms. Merella’s winning stage persona transcends conventional vocal technique.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.
To Be or Not To Be In Love – That Is The Question? plays through July 23, 2017, at Gallaudet University, Elstad Audiorium – 800 Florida Avenue NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, purchase them at the venue, or purchase them online.