REVIEW OF “FEELS LIKE HOME” that felt like home…
It’s always a pleasure to report on cabaret singers who continue growing. Such a rewarding case is that of glowing Natasha Castillo, evidencing stronger and more assured “chops” and ever-increasing stage presence and command. Graciousness and determination were evident from her earliest (2012) solo appearances. Now she’s in bloom. Working once again with the in-demand and decidedly dynamic duo—director Lennie Watts and Musical Director Steven Ray Watkins—the spotlight now more and more Feels Like Home sweet home.
“Sweet,” in its best, lower-sugar content sense does indeed fit this genial and genuine, gentle spirit with a sunny affect whose peppy “Put On a Happy Face” is no put-on. And, looking around the room, the power of suggestion worked. A follow-up mash-up of upbeat numbers about smiling featured one of the imaginative Watts/Watkins arrangements, was, perhaps redundant. Still, throughout the act, there was an ever-surprising variety of genres: a country medley; rock (a 1969 page from Page and Jones of Led Zeppelin, “Your Time Is Gonna Come,” with blistering bitterness); and, switching languages, this Malaysia-born girl radiantly recreated something her professional singer mom crooned back in Southeast Asia, “Ting Hai”—surely s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g usual boundaries of the Great American Songbook selections. But it worked, sustaining attention… When she delivered the tales, they had impact.
Musical sounds were enriched by Matt Scharfglass, bassist with class; heavenly harmonies (Wendy A. Russell and Karen Mack, of vocal quartet Those Girls); and Watkins’ solid additional vocals. In other news, Miss Castillo cast herself in the role of self-accompanying guitarist charmingly, albeit briefly. Also making cameos: rollicking humor, life lessons, and heartbreak in heartfelt performances. And a Chinese gong!
~~Rob Lester, May 3, 2017 Cabaret Scenes