|Egan's talent takes her to new levels|
|REVIEW: A longtime ingenue proves she's finally grown up.|
|February 20, 2000|
|By PAUL HODGINS|
|The Orange County Register
Even when she played Belle, "Beauty and the Beast's" winsome-but-wise teen-age heroine, there was something to Susan Egan that hinted she was more than just another perky civic-light-opera alumna.
Egan's performance was graced by a sophistication rare for someone so young. More than anything else, her Tony-nominated Broadway debut promised potential. How would this young talent develop?
Even better than expected. Egan is winning over critics and audiences in one of musical theater's trickiest adult female roles, "Cabaret's" Sally Bowles, on Broadway. And in concert Thursday at the Center's Founders Hall, the Seal Beach native proved to a hometown crowd that she's got the goods as a singer and actress to tackle some of Broadway's most demanding tunes — interpretive and technical bramble bushes that would tangle many a talented interpreter.
Most impressive of all, Egan has managed to graduate to adulthood (she turned 30 on Friday) without forsaking her past. There's still an unforced sweetness about her, though now it's intermixed with touches of Liza Minnelli, Carol Burnett and Madeline Kahn.
Egan is a champion of Broadway's rising stars, talented younger composers such as Adam Guettel ("Floyd Collins"), as well as still-living masters such as Stephen Schwartz and Kander & Ebb. Many of her songs were unfamiliar to all but the most avid followers of recent Broadway musicals.
But Egan is savvy enough to include a smattering of the classics. After opening the show with something for her younger fans — a song from the musical version of Marivaux's "Triumph of Love," in which she starred recently on Broadway — Egan attended to the silver hairs in the sold-out house with an achingly tender and understated rendition of the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Egan's voice has matured, and it's the perfect Broadway instrument: a balanced combination of technique and moxie. The best musical-theater voices never sound tightly controlled or fussy; emotion and clear, idiomatic delivery must be perfectly matched. That's Egan to a T. She knows exactly how much to pull the heartstrings in "My Funny Valentine," just how much girlish coyness is needed for "How Lovely to Be a Woman" from "Bye Bye, Birdie."
Her interpretations are never overdone and always musical, marred only by occasional intonation problems that are well within tolerance for musical theater — these songs would sound airless and dry if their presentation was too pristine.
Egan is a generous performer, to a fault. She gushed over her four sidemen, some of them old friends, but it wasn't the kind of band that drew much attention to itself.
Another pal, Lisa Richard, joined Egan for a song, then sang one of her own. At times, the concert felt like an old-chums reunion. But if generosity and loyalty are Egan's worst sins, she's got little to worry about besides finding projects worthy of her talents.