“I’ll find my way again
And I will sing my song”
Written in 1978 by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, it’s a little bit depressing that I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road still has the resonance that it does nearly 40 years later. The show may not have been seen in the UK for nearly 40 years but its commentary on how the music business – indeed culture at large, even society as a whole – treats middle-aged women remains as incisive as it surely ever has done.
Heather Jones is a pop singer who has just turned 39 and is on the cusp of launching a refreshed act in front of a bunch of music biz luminaries in a New York cabaret club. The only problem is, her manager Joe isn’t keen on her new image, her new sound, her new lyrical honesty, he wants the safe, same old same old, unthreatening Heather back because he doesn’t believe he can sell a mature woman as a commercial prospect.
So over 90 minutes, we get the push and pull between these two key figures. Landi Oshinowo’s superb singer captures all the conflict of a woman exerting her independence but not wanting to burn all her bridges just yet and her chemistry with Nicolas Colicos’ Joe is delicious, banterish at first as he tries to pretty up the raw emotion of her new music and then becoming increasingly toxified as she realises just how much a part of the system he really is.
Matthew Gould’s production plays out in an effectively realised 70s club setting, Heather’s band all around her like a support mechanism. Led by Nick Barstow’s musical direction, they’re a cracking young band, each getting a moment to shine whether musically or dramatically (Alice Offley’s bassist is very well done) and Rosanna Hyland and Kristen Gaetz provide sterling vocal (and emotional) support as Heather’s backing singers.
The soul-infused score is attractively done and Oshinowo is a marvellous performer, reining in the power in this intimate venue but losing none of the intensity of a songbook that is powerfully personal. And in a world where Piers Morgan thinks it’s ok to say Beyoncé has gone too black and Isabella Rosselini talks of the professional limbo she experienced between 45 and 60, you’re left with no choice but to admire, and lament, the acuity of Cryer and Ford’s writing.