By Cynthia Darling
Taking the stage at Pangea as part of “Destination New York,” Heather Frank opens her set with a crowd favorite, “Fat and Happy” by Carsie Blanton, showcasing Ms. Frank’s sass and solid vocals. “When I’m fat and happy and high on the hog,” she croons with a signature pluck. As the song progresses, the lyrics evolve, and she enunciates with verve: “When I’m fat and happy and famous as fuck!” This is followed by a teasing “na na na na na” ‑ Ms. Frank conjuring a playful feistiness, her fingers wagging. Ms. Frank thumbs her nose at all notions of stuffy convention. Her presence lifts the audience in a sophisticated and spirited way.
Ms. Frank’s rich singing voice pairs with her playful moxie, and it is the mixture of the two that makes her a true gem of today’s cabaret scene. After her first number, she reflects aloud about that weekend’s class with teacher Lina Koutrakos in preparation for the “Destination New York” performance. “I love to be with people who are willing to take chances,” Ms. Frank says with a twinkle in her eye. With recent works such as her show “Love in the Time of Coloring,” Ms. Frank has been taking great chances in her own life.
It is Ms. Frank’s final song of the set that truly displays not only her singing skills but also her approach to life and art ‑ something that urges every listener to remember their inner artist. By this point, Ms. Frank has captured the stage and room, and as she heads into “Crazy Dreams,” the performance comes straight from her heart. The song is a Carrie Underwood arrangement, and Ms. Frank’s choice speaks to her special ability to spot a kindred musical spirit and interpret the song in her own way. Her vocals offer a salute of sorts: “Here’s to you free souls. You firefly chasers.” Because of Ms. Frank’s earnest reaching out to the audience, the room is rapt. She brings it home skillfully: “Thank God even crazy dreams come true.”
Ms. Frank holds her final note ‑ and the audience holds its breath for an emotional moment. There is a real sense that Ms. Frank’s singing has changed the molecules in the room. People have been lifted out of their everyday lives to consider their crazy dreams ‑ Ms. Frank herself a role model for taking chances, all while telling it like it is, with sparkle and attitude.
“Destination New York”
Written and Performed by Heather Frank
Directed by Lina Koutrakos
November 17 & 24, 2019 at 3 PM
Photo by Caroline Kenney
178 2nd Avenue
New York City
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CYNTHIA DARLING is a writer and teacher living in Hell’s Kitchen. A writer for NAfME’s Teaching Music magazine for many years, she also wrote for New York Family magazine. She is currently working toward an MFA in Creative Writing with the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in Louisiana Literature, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Wanderlust Journal.