Melissa Etheridge is a bona-fide superstar. So, why is this artist, used to appearing in huge venues, “slumming” in a Broadway theater with a capacity of less than 800?
Let’s not look this gift horse in the mouth. This is a gem of an opportunity to see Etheridge up close and personal in her My Window autobiographical show at the Circle in the Square. This is a memoir in song, songs that sprang from her adventurous life that went from entertaining in saloons to becoming a lesbian icon and a major rock concert star.
The Circle in the Square has been turned into a quasi-proscenium venue with Etheridge performing mostly on a stage at one end of this theater in the three-quarter round. The Circle’s original stage is now full of seats whose occupants frequently had to twist around as she casually wandered through the theater.
The glitzy set, designed by Bruce Rodgers and spiffily lit by Abigail Rosen Holmes joined with Olivia Sebesky’s informative and psychedelic projections to help Etheridge communicate her story. Andrea Lauer’s costumes give Etheridge a casually glamorous look and her sidekick, the Roadie played with eagerness and humor by Kate Owens, a series of outfits varying from tough broad to anonymous lover.
She gives a wink to her Broadway gig with a slow “On Broadway” and, of course, ends with her most famous number, “Come to My Window.” In between, the songs appear in chronological order as they pertain to her eventful life. After her funny story about being born four years to the day after her older, very resentful sister, she sings the appropriate “Like the Way I Do.”
Her first real musical inspiration was the group the Archies of the eponymous TV show. Beginning with strumming a badminton racquet, she progressed to a real guitar. Even after being warned about bleeding fingers, she studied hard, sort of won a local talent contest and found her niche in local clubs playing back-up with bands.
My Window is co-written with Etheridge’s wife Linda Wallem Etheridge. Both did a great job balancing the music with the life story so eloquently expressed by the totally charming Etheridge.
Of course her life wasn’t all successful recording contracts, Grammys and personal happiness. Along the way her mother threw her out of the house when she was caught in bed with an unexpected girlfriend.
But, throughout her ups and downs and many lovers, she felt deep love for her supportive father, artfully demonstrated when she showed a macramé guitar strap her dad made for her first twelve-string guitar. What might have been a maudlin moment was supremely moving as was the terrible time in her life when she lost her son.
She also found enlightenment in mind-altering drugs, an experience that changed her life (“Open Your Mind”).
Her songs run the gamut from love songs (“I Want to Come Over,” “Ready to Love”) to the exultant (“Here I Am Again,” “Piece of My Heart”) all sung in her in her rich, rough-edged voice.
Amy Tinkham directed, shaping a complete work from the many anecdotes and songs, giving Etheridge the freedom to be herself.
Melissa Etheridge: My Window (through November 19, 2023)
Circle in the Square, 235 West 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.melissaetheridge.com
Running time: two hours and 45 minutes including one intermission