Home Emotional music DORIAN WOODRUFF goes straight to the heart in THE WORDS OF ALAN AND MARILYN BERGMAN at Pangea

DORIAN WOODRUFF goes straight to the heart in THE WORDS OF ALAN AND MARILYN BERGMAN at Pangea


Alan and Marilyn Bergman have made a career out of romance. As a team of songwriters, they drew inspiration from their own long romance. They were married for 63 years. They’ve written the lyrics to some of the most stylish theme songs in movie history, including movies like In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Same Time, Next Year, The Promise, Tootsie, Best Friends, Shirley Valentine, and Yentl. They gave Broadway one of its most enduring diva ballads, “Fifty Percent” by Ballroom. And on TV, they left us with classic theme songs, including those of Maude, Good Times, and Alice. If they had written nothing but the lyrics to “The Way We Were”, they would still be in the pantheon of great songwriters.

They wrote with a “who’s who” of the greatest songwriters of all time, including Marvin Hamlisch, Neil Diamond, Lew Spence, Billy Goldenberg, Dave Grusin, Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, Johnny Mandel, David Shire, John Williams and Mark Isham. But their most fruitful collaboration was with the composer Michel Legrand, with whom they wrote a string of hits that have become essential standards. The Bergmans have received 3 Oscars, 2 Grammys for Song of the Year, 4 Emmys and have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

A Bergman love song was never about thrilling young love. Their songs tended to focus on the kind of love that stood the test of time. These were people who had been struck by love and were always ready to wear their hearts on their sleeves. If we can say that music has a season, that of the Bergmans would be autumn. Their songs were often bittersweet and hesitant and full of reminiscences of golden times. A romantic Bergman song was always painfully aware of the ticking of the clock. For Marilyn Bergman, that clock passed last January. And with his passing, artists are taking the time to celebrate the work of these extraordinary songwriters.Review: DORIAN WOODRUFF goes straight to the heart in THE WORDS OF ALAN AND MARILYN BERGMAN at Pangea

This is the task that Dorian Woodruff set himself last night in his show, DORIAN WOODRUFF: THE WORDS OF ALAN AND Marilyn Bergman, which opened in the intimate room of the Pangea cabaret. Woodruff wisely didn’t try to capture the epic scope of Bergman’s entire career. It would take hours and hours. Instead, he took a very personal approach and focused on the romantic, bittersweet moments of his own interesting life, moments in which the Bergmans had provided the soundtrack.

Dorian Woodruff is exactly the kind of crooner the Bergmans wrote for. His voice is warm and skillful, his diction is perfect without being ostentatious, and he displays a wide emotional palette. He found the rich subtext of Bergman’s romantic themes and made it speak from his own heart. He focused on three of the great loves of his life and how Bergman’s songs accompanied those romances.

Using an excellent samba version of “Cinnamon and Clove” as an introduction, Dorian quickly launched into Bergman’s most famous song, “The Way We Were”, to introduce the theme of talking about past loves, the first being a handsome man he met during a summer romance in Brazil – a tender romance with a time limit. He illustrated this memory of long ago with “Seul au monde”, Summer Me, Winter, Me” and “The Trouble With Hello Is Goodbye”. He concluded this story with “Mozart in the Dark”, perfectly describing this moment of re-entering the world after a sweet escape.

Woodruff followed with one of Bergman’s few rhythmic tracks, “Leave It All to Me”, written with Paul Anka. In the song, he tells the story of witnessing an extremely funny live TV incident. The story is far too good to be told here. The story segues into another great love, a man he met in another accident at the Von Trapps Ski Lodge in Vermont (yes, CES Von Trapps), an accident that led to a 5-year romance . To underline this beautiful story, he sang a beautiful rendition of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”. But, as often happens, beautiful romances sometimes have ugly endings, as he illustrated with the heartbreaking “Where Do You Start?”

Review: DORIAN WOODRUFF goes straight to the heart in THE WORDS OF ALAN AND MARILYN BERGMAN at Pangea

The final part of the show dealt with an ongoing romance, the future of which is still uncertain. This is classic Bergman territory. “Every Now and Then”, a very passionate performance of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and “Love Like Ours” dealt with the quivering uncertainty of new love. Mr. Woodruff seemed the most relaxed and approachable in this section. It ended with one of Bergman’s first hit songs, the Frank Sinatra standard “Nice ‘n Easy”. Indeed, Dorian Woodruff has made a difficult task beautiful and easy. It is a tribute to his art.

Dorian has had tremendous support along the way. Musical director Jon Weber, on piano, provided a wonderful backup and really shone in the moments when he took a solo or two. In addition, director Lina Koutrakos gave the evening a very sketchy but necessary structure. The three had the gargantuan task of slicing Bergman’s giant catalog into an hour and fifteen minute show. The result was something quite moving and quite hopeful. Woodruff, Weber and Koutrakos are the kudos for building a tribute show that doesn’t feel academic at all. They highlight the varied colors of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Review: DORIAN WOODRUFF goes straight to the heart in THE WORDS OF ALAN AND MARILYN BERGMAN at Pangea

For more from Dorian Woodruff, follow him on Instagram @dorianwoodrufff.

For more great acts at Pangea, head over to pangeanyc.com.