The Eva Cassidy Story
Just plain wrong on so many levels
To many, Eva Cassidy is only known from her posthumous albums which, considering she is no longer able to record anything new, must be by definition collections of her best work. As such, those charged with compiling them will be always be challenged to choose the right songs & recordings, whilst those listening will always have their appreciation and opinion 'controlled' by this. There is, therefore a degree of power for anyone representing, portraying or producing Eva's work but with this power comes great responsibility.
My view on Eva is that she possessed one of the purest voices we have ever heard; she was able to convey feelings, emotions, passion, longing, sadness and joy without ever having to stray from remaining controlled, almost to the point of being understated. Less was most certainly more when she took to the mike and this is one of the most endearing factors that set her apart from so many others. Unfortunately, this is where the current show, and in particular Nicole Faraday seems to miss the real essence of Eva. Don't get me wrong, it is obvious Faraday can sing, but to cast her as Cassidy left many of the audience puzzled to distraction. Under Faraday it seemed every single song had to have an element of 'belting'; either through choice or by direction there are problems with her volume control as even mid phrase she moves from smooth & soulful to loud and brash and then back again.
This was regardless of whichever song but in particular the signature ballads of Fields of Gold, Over the Rainbow and Autumn Leaves were all 'karaoked' up . It was reminiscent of the early stages of X Factor auditions where the wannabee star tries too hard to showcase her complete vocal range and power to Simon Cowell et al, when all that is needed is some genuine emotion. Even when playing Cassidy in her final hours, sick and weak, Faraday still manages to wallop out the top notes and totally ruin the heart rendering tearful end to the story.
It's not just the lead who left many of the audience in dazed uncertainty; Rose-Marie as Mary Ann Redmond achieved what has never happened in all my years of watching theatre - I was left totally stunned and gob-smacked as to what I was watching, how it fit into the story and ultimately, why ! Likened to the Irish Bette Midler, I'm afraid it was like watching a demented step aerobic instructor with an unhealthy fixation on Tina Turner and completely interrupted the flow and feeling of what should have been an emotional story being told.
I'm aware that there has been some considerable rewriting done since the show first appeared over 10 years ago, and on speaking to many afterwards who had seen it originally, they were baffled as to why. The story doesn't need any embellishing, just a truthful recounting by actors who can understand and portray Cassidy's uncertainty around her career, her love of her family and her drive to keep giving even as she was dying - instead we are treated to drama school levels of smaltz, paper-thin sentiment and an anti-climax of an ending.
As for my accompanying guest who is a huge Cassidy fan, she was almost in tears; not because of the emotional ending, but because of the complete feeling of betrayal to the memory of a true singing legend.