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Melissa Etheridge Makes Magic in "My Window"
Melissa Etheridge, "My Window"
Directed by Amy Tinkham
Circle in the Square Theater
235 West 50 Street
From Sept. 14, 2023
Closes Nov. 19, 2023
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 8, 2023
Photo by Jenny Anderson.
At the beginning of Melissa Etheridge’s Broadway show, "My Window", she tells the audience that her life has been filled with drama, from the very day of her birth when the doctor was fifteen minutes late. Throughout the rest of the show, she brings that drama to vibrant life with song and brilliant storytelling.
The highlights of her musical life include the day she got a transistor radio, her first guitar lesson, her first gig, her first album and her Academy Award. The highlights of her personal life include her discovery of her sexuality, the women she met and loved, the birth of her children, illness and the death of her father and son.
Etheridge doesn’t seem to hold much back, except the names of people. She never tells us the name of her first partner or the movie star she was married to. Nor do we know who it was that introduced her to the Peruvian shaman who took her on the ayahuasca trip that changed her life.
The story is told under the gentle guidance of director Amy Tinkham, with a huge boost from Kate Owens, who plays The Roadie that brings in and takes away props, becomes minor characters and sometimes reacts to what’s happening in Etheridge’s story. It’s enhanced by Olivia Sebesky’s projections of Etheridge through the years and Abigail Rosen Holmes’ exuberant, sometime subtle lighting. And of course, the show is filled with Etheridge’s amazing songs, which she introduces at appropriate times in her story.
But what makes this show truly exceptional is the way Etheridge quickly establishes a personal relationship with each member of the audience. This is true whether she is singing from the main stage or the small stage set up in the middle of the house, walking down the aisles, donning the cap of someone in the audience or sitting down amongst her fans. And it doesn’t matter whether she’s playing the piano or one of her numerous guitars.
The text was written by Etheridge with her wife, Linda Wallem Etheridge, but it is largely improvised, which makes the show seem spontaneous and personal rather than fixed and formal. It also is another example of Etheridge’s bravery, something which is amply displayed in her life story.
For most of the evening (and it’s a long one, the show running two and a half hours with one intermission) Etheridge is upbeat, even when she’s telling the painful story of her mother kicking her out of the house because she has female lovers or breaking up with longtime partners. And when it comes to painful memories, Etheridge seems to be using this show as a pathway to catharsis, acceptance and eventually moving on.
There are a few times when the show becomes too heavy for its own good. Etheridge is not a doctor, and her personal theories on the causes of cancer may not be particularly useful. But for the most part, whether you’re in the mood to rejoice or reflect, "My Window" is a show that will make you laugh, cry and sing along.
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