Joan Ryan

Written by:
Mark Jennett
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Review of San Francisco appearance with Lee Lessack

. Joan Ryan starred in the original production of Marvin Laird and Joel Paley’s Ruthless! and has appeared in a number of other shows including Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Elegies and Anyone Can Whistle. Her self-titled debut album reveals a wonderfully straightforward voice of considerable warmth and strength. Her approach to both pop and show material is none the worse for being slightly old-fashioned in its unadorned directness. It is refreshing to hear these songs just sung, with truth, honesty and obvious enjoyment. Her voice is natural and unaffected, with an easy belt when required, and you can actually hear her smiling with pleasure when something in the lyric or melody takes her fancy.

Ryan’s programme comprises a mixture of familiar modern standards and new material. Her interpretation of Paul Willams’ I Won’t Last A Day Without You is touchingly optimistic – a simple declaration of true love without the note of doubt that the lyric might imply. This sunny yet vulnerable quality is particularly affecting on numbers such as Diane Warren’s Feels Like Home and Bruce Roberts and Carole Bayer Sager’s I’m Coming Home Again where Ryan suggests a poignant certainty that bad times really are a thing of the past.

Her approach works slightly less well on weaker material such as the rather cloying The Moon And The Stars, a paean to a mother’s love for her child, although her obvious sincerity ensures that the number never tips over into downright sentimentality. Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind strains for humour and its archness sits a little uncomfortably alongside the rest of the album. However Ryan is completely in her element on a direct and uncynical expression of optimism like David Friedman’s Trust The Wind. Her somewhat revisionist, undoubtedly sexy take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Shall We Dance won’t please everyone but, for this listener at least, its

sense of eager joyfulness brings new life to a delightful song.

The album’s closer, a medley of Follow Me and On A Clear Day, recorded at a S.T.A.G.E. benefit dedicated to the music of Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe and Burton Lane, is a flash of pure Broadway, the singer taking delight in her ability to spin out the demanding melody with ease while pouring commitment and passion into the heartfelt lyric.

David Siegel’s arrangements are as fresh and free of affectation as the lady herself. Between them they have produced an album of considerable charm.

Mark Jennett

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