Monday, May 17, 2021

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 259: In the Spotlight: Tiffiney Spinks-Henry

By James V. Ruoccco

The name - Tiffiney Spinks-Henry - says it all.


The sound - hers, that is - is inspired, focused, confident, real and full of surprise. And that is exactly what puts Henry at the top of her game.

She loves to sing.
She loves to perform.
She loves being in front of an audience.
She loves to take chances.
She loves to be inspired.

In short, Tiffiney Spinks-Henry is a woman who wants to be heard.

She has great range.
She has great vocal power.
She knows how to sell a song.
She knows how to embrace a lyric and make it her own.
On stage or in the recording studio, her vocal musicality is natural, identifiable, incredible, unique and very, very special.

"I am a whole vibe!" she confesses. "I don't box myself into one specific genre. I am a multi-genre artist who offers my listeners a feeling and a vibe, not just a sound."

Case in point: Her sensational recording of Stevie Wonder's 1976 chart busting meg-a-hit "As."

When first released back in the '70s by Wonder, the song originally placed at #36 on Billboard's "Hot 100" and Black Singles Charts. A love song with a three-fold message, it celebrates a person's love for humanity and his or her beloved. It also pinpoints a special love for anyone who succumbs to the revelatory enchantment and spirit of  "As" and its marvelously detailed lyrics and orchestrations.

"I view Stevie Wonder as an icon and a legendary musical genius," Henry muses. "So to have permission to remake one of his songs (Henry's take on "As" has been recorded under the catchy title name of PhoenixFire Experience) was truly an honor and a blessing for me. His music is phenomenal and touches the soul of people."

Henry's new recording of "As" has pulse, drive, power and individuality.

"My song is on the radio," she happily reports. "You can hear it on 94.3 FM WYBC.

And that's not all.
"In the very near future, I will be going on a mini-US tour," she explains. "All details will be posted on my 'Facebook' page ( I will also be putting out my EP this year so I will busy."

What thrills Henry most, of course, is her exciting, intimate connection between singer and audience.
It's a musical gift of high, natural energy and she plays it well with beauty, intimacy and sensuality. "A live audience gives real time energy back to me as I perform. I love to see the smiles, the head nodding and the body groovin' as I am performing.
"I perform two sets of music - up close and personal with a live band - which will include jazz, R&B and my new single. It's a guaranteed great night of soulful music."

For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 258, A Concert Review: Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" (TheaterWorks/Hartford) (Goodspeed Musicals on Demand)

By James V. Ruocco

"Jekyll & Hyde."

"Next to Normal."  


"Dear Evan Hansen."


"The Sound of Music Live!"


"It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues."


The voice, the songs, the shows, the sound and the thrills belong to Christiane Noll, an actress and singer whose range, dramatic intensity and level of interpretation turn "Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" into a triumph of musical concert theatre that is savvy, assertive, edgy, jazzy and disarmingly frank.

Theatrically, it evokes intimate memories and up-to-date info about the singer's long career, her charismatic stage presence, her head-on quest for survival as wife, mother and entertainer during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, her adoration for Broadway show music and finally, her love of being in front of an audience - live, or in this case, the people who are watching her at home on their televisions, computers, mobile apps or lap tops.

"Quarantine has done wonders for me," she confesses. "Age is a state of being and I am younger than I have been for years. I have slept a lot. I have drank a lot of water. And I have spent every waking moment with my family and our new dog.
"Yes, we have officially become a Covid cliche."

Regardless, work matters to Noll and here, in a concert, co-produced by TheaterWorks/Hartford and Goodspeed Musicals, she maintains that vocal magnificence and style that has categorized her work in show after show - "Jekyll & Hyde," "Next to Normal," "Dear Evan Hansen," to name a few - performance after performance, concert after concert.

She's sincere.
She's humble.
She's alternatively mischievous.
She's instinctive.
She's sentimental.
She's thankful.
She's in a class by her herself.

And "Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" is living proof that the singer is here to stay - now, forever, always.

The marvelous musicality that belongs to Noll is calibrated with vigor and consumptive welcoming by Rob Ruggiero who has also directed the actress in TheaterWorks' award-winning 2017 staging of the Broadway musical "Next to Normal." Here, Ruggiero, once again, is in his element, offering completely intimate staging that is fast, fluid and personable. Like Noll, he too adores show music and adopts a refreshingly open virtuosity and smoothness that gives this 65-minute concert its snap, bite and sweetly casual style and lyricism. He allows Noll to do her thing, using close ups, long shots and choice, often candid techniques that heighten the concert's momentum without ever missing a beat.  It all makes perfect sense even when Noll numbs her feelings with reactions, words and heartfelt pieces of information that are both revelatory and confessional. 

Musical direction for "Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" is provided by pianist/conductor William Waldrop whose credits include "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," "Evita," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Cinderella" and "Grey Gardens." For this go-round, there is a depth of feeling and gratitude to his work - sensuous, free, observant, nostalgic - matched by a fully formed sensitivity, beauty and technique that serves the material well. Nothing is taken for granted or underplayed here. Everything that Noll sings is driven and accurately executed with fully weighted worthiness, energy, pulse and balance.

With able assist from band members Sean Rubin (bass), Billy Bivona (guitar/French horn), Celeste Cumming (cello) and Jonathan Barber (drums), Waldrop addresses Noll's song choices from "Hello, Dolly!" "Follies," "Next to Normal," "Fun Home" and "Grey Gardens," among others, with apt, confident imagination that captures her complete range of feelings, mood swings, thoughts and emotions.  It's all played with unhurried charm, focus, passion, fury and life-changing fiesta that makes you sit up and listen, smile and applaud every musical moment and turn. And yes, you'll want to hit "Replay" time and time again.

The song list Noll has chosen for her concert of Broadway show music is eclectic, driven, personable, dynamic and memorable.

"Before the Parade Passes By" from "Hello, Dolly!"
"Don't Look at Me," "In Buddy's Eyes," "Losing My Mind" from "Follies."
"Anybody Have a Map" from "Dear Evan Hansen."
"To Build a Home" from "The Bridges of Madison County."
"Getting Married Today" from "Company."
"I Miss the Mountains" from "Next to Normal."
"The Revolutionary Costume for Today" from "Grey Gardens."
"Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue" from "Fun Home."
"Smiling" from "Jagged Little Pill."
"For Good" from "Wicked."
"Everybody Says Don't" from "Anyone Can Whistle."
"We Can Never Go Back to Before" from "Ragtime."
"Move On" from "Sunday in the Park With George."
"Once Upon a Dream" from "Jekyll & Hyde."

No matter what she sings, Noll's vocal versatility, aching abandonment and rich soprano phrasing and intensity always leaves you wanting more. Her command of different musical styles - Sondheim, Herman, Wildhorn - is both wildly impressive and engaging. She knows how to sell a song and make it her own. She takes chances and runs with them. She is full of surprise. She completely understands what the composer and lyricist is communicating through song. She instinctively knows how to position her concert line-up of material by picking songs that follow each other well and flow seamlessly. She can do pop torch, belt, sentiment or sensuous-tinged rhythm at the drop of a hat. Her self-assurance and confidence impresses as does her in-the-moment rawness and truthfulness. She is also a magnificent storyteller and conversationalist, framed here mostly through scenes filmed inside the turn-of-the-century theater environs at Goodspeed Musicals.

"Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" is an alluring, tuneful mix of wonderful showtunes and performance that celebrates musical theatre with satisfying sounds, intelligent navigation, a well-rounded menu of Broadway classics and standards and an emotionally honest sincerity that's impossible to resist. With Christiane Noll center stage, you get a singer and entertainer whose voice is as smooth and exhilarating as any melodic line of music. As musical theatre, this event is not only an opportunity to get up close and personal with the singer, but one that effectively masterminds her musical brilliance, her ability to connect with an audience and finally, one that allows her to fill the soundstage with genuine emotion, spirit and healing in these very troubled pandemic times.

"Christiane Noll: Coming Alive Again" is being streamed online, now through May 30, 2021. Tickets are $25 plus a $3 service charge. To book the event, visit TheaterWorks/Hartford at or Goodspeed Musicals at (proceeds for the event will be shared between both theaters) and click "Buy Tickets." A "Virtual Watch" link will be sent to the email you provided during checkout. You have 72 hours to watch the production.