'Melissa Etheridge: My Window' review — a celebration of the singer's truest self
Read our review of My Window, Grammy Award winner Melissa Etheridge's theatrical concert, playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre through November 19.
Melissa Etheridge is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning, globally successful rock star who, thanks to a folksy heartland sound and gritty, gravelly voice that sets her apart from her rock peers, still has the vibe of a hidden-gem indie artist. It's a contradiction she seems to be aware of and one that makes her theatrical concert, Melissa Etheridge: My Window, work.
No indie small-timer, of course, would get a two-month solo stint in a Broadway theatre to essentially narrate their Wikipedia biography and sing songs they assume many ticketholders will know the words to. But unlike Bruce Springsteen's 2017 Broadway concert (which inspired Etheridge's) at the cavernous St. James Theatre, Etheridge's gets the Circle in the Square, which is closer to a Brooklyn music hall than an arena. The singer even walks among the audience while flawlessly shredding on the guitar.
The venue admittedly does most of the heavy lifting in bringing audiences closer to Etheridge than ever before. Much of the information she shares about herself in the show's 2.5 hours — her upbringing in Kansas, lesbian-bar-singer-to-star arc, interest in alternative medicine, romantic relationships, personal tragedies — is readily available online. And in her attempt to hit all the major points in her 62 years of life, she and director Amy Tinkham speed through much of it. But fans will nonetheless enjoy hearing Etheridge's story from her own lips, and when she slows down and lets us — and herself — live in a moment and feel a feeling for a little while, My Window is completely riveting.
Etheridge's memory of her first kiss is a highlight — with a fellow church girl with "eyes of green with a brown streak like rust." It's an innocent and tender excavation, not just a remembrance, of her wide-eyed teenage self. It's one of many romantic dalliances she recalls during My Window, which grow increasingly punchier, cheekier, and increasingly captivating if only because an older lesbian professing her truth and sexuality on stage is still something so rare. Another contradiction, considering that Etheridge reminds us her coming out in 1993 didn't derail her career — a statement that almost proves surprising (and educational) in 2023.
Her segments on the benefits of drugs and alternative medicine are, though also not rushed, less effective, as she takes a preachy rather than introspective tone. But luckily, no matter how overlong any bit of narration gets, Etheridge's next song saves the day.
From her best-known hits to the first song she ever wrote as a kid, each one soars, their poetic lyrics supplying the emotional depth the script sometimes misses. As a casual Etheridge fan, I left wanting to listen to each song over again and discover the rest, though the exhilarating experience of hearing her pour her desperation into "I'm the Only One," her fiery desire into "I Wanna Come Over," and the full extent of her nimble guitar mastery into "Bring Me Some Water" live is something the recordings can't replicate. Those can only provide a window into the experience.
Photo credit: Melissa Etheridge in My Window. (Photo by Jenny Anderson)
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