By Donasia Sykes
Judy Garland. Patsy Cline. Edith Piaf. Billie Holiday. Maria Callas. Powerful women with powerful voices and sad life stories. But what about the women who aren’t famous? Who tells their stories?
Ali Harper takes on that question in “Songs for Nobodies,” blending the songs of notable female singers with women who had bigger dreams for themselves, dealing with failed relationships, and fighting against a world that placed them in a certain box. Ms. Harper tells the stories of a bathroom attendant, an usher turned backup singer, the daughter of a Frenchman who escaped a concentration camp using forged passports, an ambitious journalist who interviewed Billie Holiday, and a nanny who accompanied Maria Callas on a cruise ship.
The show narrates each woman’s personal struggles. The usher sees many singers succeed at achieving her dreams when she couldn’t. The Frenchman’s daughter, a librarian, contends with past trauma. The journalist strives to be taken seriously and write about subjects besides fashion. The nanny wishes to start over in the aftermath of a bad relationship. What the women have in common is a connection to artists with beautiful songs and tragic lives. Meeting these artists is a high point for them. After hearing the songs live, the characters bond with the singers. The usher sings with Patsy Cline on the day before Cline dies in a plane crash. The audience feels the joy of the usher singing with her idol, as well as the pain of losing her so suddenly.
Ms. Harper’s efforts to learn multiple accents and imitate the vocals of each artist really paid off. From country to blues, Harper captures the pain and joy of each artist. The audience applauded each song enthusiastically. You could feel the sway and sass of Cline and Holiday, and the grace and refinement of Garland, Piaf and Callas. “Songs for Nobodies” an inspiring homage to female vocalists and the women who love them.
“Songs for Nobodies”
Performed by Ali Harper
Oct. 7 at 2pm, an additional performance will be added soon!
Playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith
Director: Ross Gumbley
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DONASIA SYKES is a freelance writer currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BA in English and Textual Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, where she saw and performed in various small stage shows.