Featured Music: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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Melinda Wood Allen in full throat above and the cover of her 2005 album below.
Not An Ingénue
by Melinda Wood Allen
11pm Fri & Sat at Stage West, 821 W Vickery Blvd, FW. $5-10. 817-STG-WEST.
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Against Type

Who says Fort Worth belter Melinda Wood Allen can’t be an Ingénue?

By JIMMY FOWLER

The traditional cabaret act — one singer, one accompanist, and an audience gathered in an intimate space — may seem like a snap to execute if the musicians are talented. But Fort Worth actor-singer Melinda Wood Allen warns that the psychological dynamics involved can be tricky.
Each audience member, she said, “has a different sense of personal space. Some people don’t like the singer to make direct eye contact with them. You have to sing to their forehead. Some people like sharing eye contact [with the performer], but you can’t pay too much attention to one person. Other people may sit there expressionless, and you’re nervously thinking, ‘Should I stick a pin in them to see if they’re still alive?’ Later, they come up and tell me they loved it. You have to process all this as you perform.”
In her first one-woman act, Not An Ingénue, at the Ol’ Vic Café at Stage West, Allen is joined by pianist Jay Adkins for an hour’s worth of lesser-known songs from musicals both famous and obscure. The tunes were handpicked by Allen to form a loose arc that reflects her journey as a performer. She was never an ingénue type, even when she was the ingénue age: “I was five-ten, I had broad shoulders and big feet, but I always wanted to sing the songs for the roles that didn’t suit me.”
The image of the tiny Broadway songbird also doesn’t suit Allen vocally, and that’s a compliment. She’s got a voice that’s at once big and crystalline, boisterous and precise. It’s no surprise that, as an army brat moving around various U.S. and European cities, she studied opera, even though her first love was musical theater. Fort Worth audiences have seen her on practically every stage in the city. Her favorite shows include Stage West’s production of Cowgirls and Jubilee Theatre’s vocally demanding God’s Trombones and Book of Job. (“If there’s a white girl onstage in a Jubilee musical, it’s usually been me,” she said.)
Not An Ingénue is a different animal altogether. As a musical piece, it’s all Melinda Wood Allen all the time. She premiered the act in conjunction with Stage West’s most recent production The Long Christmas Ride Home, a potent staging that was more than just a little melancholy. (It dealt with AIDS and crumbling marriages, among other non-festive topics.) Allen said she felt like a cheerleader, following that play with her show. “Some people were saying, ‘Thank you for not letting me go straight home after that one,’ ” she quipped.
This time around, Not An Ingénue follows the mainstage production of the much frothier Blithe Spirit. Allen and pianist Adkins work with a cycle of tunes from disparate composers and eras. With the exception of a couple of beloved familiar songs, her mission is to explore unfamiliar territory. Among the ingénue songs are “I Wish It So” from Marc Blitzstein’s 1959 Juno; “Lion Tamer” from Stephen Schwartz’s 1974 The Magic Show; and “Stars and the Moon” from Jason Robert Brown’s 1995 Songs for a New World. As the act progresses, and as Allen the performer decides if a non-ingénue can sing ingénue songs, she’ll belt out numbers written for men (“Dulcinea” from Man of La Mancha) and African-Americans (Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” from that revue).
Not An Ingénue is all about breaking the barriers that’ve been imposed on you, she said. According to Allen, it’s also about “getting more comfortable in your own skin as you get older. You don’t feel the need to listen to what the world thinks you should be.”


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