“I used to wonder where the stars go, well now I know, so I’ll tell you.”
The lyric from “The Stars Fell On California” from Helen Reddy’s 1981 album, Play Me Out was a fitting lyric to open a heart stopping concert at The Barns at Wolf Trap on Friday night.
Reddy enthusiastically opened the show singing this long-forgotten gem of a song that basically asks us,”What happened to the stars?” She tells us they’re at Hollywood and Vine, and I argue that they were at Wolf Trap on Friday night.
As the divine Miss Reddy came onstage she looked nothing like the young woman I remember from Pete’s Dragon, but the minute she opened her mouth, you could make no mistake that this was the voice we all came to hear. She may be a few years older, but not vocally. She displayed a powerful performance that made me wonder where this star went?
Helen Reddy had a great, but not long-enough-career: Pete’s Dragon, Airport 1975, and as a testament to a star’s greatness: an appearance on The Love Boat and as Kermit’s very special guest on The Muppet Show. But as the 1970s ended, unfortunately, so did the career of Helen Reddy. She made random appearances over the years, but faded into background, eventually earning her degree at the age of 60 and becoming a licensed hypnotherapist in her native Australia. But now, some 40 years after her first number one single, she is using her successes and failures as inspiration for her powerful evening.
As she playfully bantered with the audience, she told us that she wasn’t going to sing all of her hits, but rather songs that she wanted to sing… songs that meant something to her. Each and every song told a story about the singer: Paul Williams’ “Loneliness” and “You and Me Against The World”; her own composition “Best Friend”; “Nice To Be Around” from the film Cinderella Liberty; and of course her tour de force, “I Am Woman.” Each song was vocally flawless, but more importantly, you could see the years of struggle in her eyes. She sang words out of her mouth, but told stories with her eyes.
She told stories of growing up performing in her father’s vaudeville act; her first crush; her now 15-year-old granddaughter – each story fed into another magnificent and semi-autobiographical performance.
Helen Reddy may have been in retirement for the last 20 years, but she is at home on stage and in front of an audience, and on stage is where she deserves to stay. And yes, she is woman… hear her roar!
Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.
Helen Reddy performed for two nights only on March 7 & 8, 2013 at The Barns at Wolf Trap – 1635 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For upcoming Wolf Trap events, please check out their website.
Helen Reddy’s website.