It seems only right that such an outstanding talent, beautiful spirit, and all-around charmer as Lori Brown Mirabal should lead a Charmed Life. She’s the first to admit that she does, and she’s sharing her happy existence, joyous attitude, and gratitude for all that she has and those that made it possible in her uplifting show at Urban Stages. Originally scheduled to open in March 2019, the pandemic closure of theaters put it on hold for sixteen months, but it’s a stellar performance and a feel-good message that are well worth the wait.
The delightful and engaging 70-minute show, written by and starring Mirabal and directed by Vincent Scott, combines personal reminiscences, music, and humor to trace the star’s journey from her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, to her international acclaim in both theater and opera. Her genuine warmth and loving personality come shining through every moment she’s on stage, as she directly addresses the audience, makes eye contact with her captivated fans (and if you aren’t one already, you will instantly become one), and moves around the intimate set with natural comfort and ease.
While discussing both the opportunities she had and the obstacles she overcame with a heartfelt openness, a changing selection of digital photos appear in a frame on the back wall. They encompass everything from her loving, industrious, and supportive family, who instilled in her Black pride, human kindness, and words of wisdom, to the mentors, idols, and celebrities who assisted and encouraged her (among them, Cab Calloway, who compared her to the legendary Leontyne Price, and Luciano Pavarotti, who kissed her hand after complimenting her outstanding performance), to the friends she lost to AIDS, and the vocalists she admired across the genres in her transition from gospel to soul singer to operatic mezzo-soprano (Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Patsy Cline, and the Black women who preceded her in the mostly white field of opera, including Price, Marian Anderson, and Jessye Norman).
Mirabal’s reflections and musings are interspersed with magnificent show tunes (“A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, “Can’t Help Lovin Dat Man” from Showboat, and more, concluding with a meaningful medley of “Somewhere over the Rainbow/Believe in Yourself” from The Wizard of Oz/The Wiz) and arias that she performed throughout her career (from La Bohème, Tosca, and Norma), which showcase her rich, resonant, expressive voice and acting skills, accompanied on piano by John DiPinto.
Numbering among the many highlights of the show is an extended segment of selections from Carmen, which she masterfully sings, enacts, and explains, making it abundantly clear why that’s the role in which she has been cast repeatedly and has performed more than any other. Brava!
Mirabal’s sublime presentation is supported by a classic set design by Jaime Terrazzino, mood-appropriate lighting by Madeleine Burrow, and a treasure trunk of costumes from her past shows. Everything about Charmed Life more than lives up to its name – it’s nothing short of magical, and will leave you feeling optimistic and smiling.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, without intermission.
Charmed Life plays through Sunday, August 1, at Urban Stages, 259 W. 30th Street, NYC. For tickets, go online. Be advised that audience members must show proof of vaccination (Card or Excelsior Pass) and masks are encouraged.