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PASSION

AN ARTISTS JOURNEY INTO THE LIGHT

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Highest Rating in Cabaret Exchange
"A short time ago Olivia Stevens, the Swedish-American actress singer, did a cabaret show entitled Pleasure and Peril about Zarah Leander as part of Karen Kohler’s award-winning series Kabarett Kollektif. Leander, was the Swedish singing actress who became the biggest movie star in Nazi Germany when Dietrich refused Hitler. Stevens’ show was a stunning, informative performance and Stevens has performed the show many times here and abroad.This year Stevens has returned in a new show entitled Passion at the Metropolitan Room. This time, under the skillful direction of Eric Michael Gillett, and with great musical support by Erich Rausch on piano, Stevens is taking the scapel to her own life story which she calls 'an artist's journey into the light.' Passion gives her full scope to demonstrate her accomplished singing and acting in a wide variety of song styles in several languages.

Entering in a chic black outfit, Stevens launches into 'The Singer' by Kander and Ebb, breaking up the lyrics by telling us bits of her life story. Without pause, she begins describing an audition for the famous stage writer-director Ariane Mnouchkine of the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris. Standing at the top of a tall ladder, she is terrified when Mnouchkine tells her to fall backwards. Singing 'Look Mommy, No Hands' Stevens draws us into her world of memories. Flashing back to being late for her first rehearsal as Sally Bowles in Stockholm and falling in love with the actor playing Cliff...She gives us her dazzling performance as Sally, tearing defiantly into 'Don't Tell Mama,' and plaintively singing 'Maybe This Time...' But she discovers the actor she loves is gay and her response is a proud, angry 'Mein Herr,' sung in Swedish.

Announcing individual titles to sections of her show, 'A Tale of Obsession' describes the vegetarian she gets involved with. She dramatically sings in French and English Edith Piaf's great 'Hymne a L'Amour (If You Love Me, Really Love Me)' in a big theatrical voice, a startling showcase for her classically trained soprano.

'The Story of the Big Break' has Stevens discussing her frantic auditions for the part of Anita in West Side Story in Stockholm. The choreographer doesn't think she can dance the part and she is dismissed from the auditions. She tries out again and for weeks she doesn't hear from the director. When the cast is finally announced there is no one announced for the part of Anita. The director tells her the choreographer still doesn’t want her but he wants her if she will promise to rehearse her dance numbers every day with the choreographer who despises her. She does and she goes on to a major triumph in the role. We get the splendid sampling of that award winning performance by Stevens singing 'A Boy Like That' and 'I Have A Love.'

By candlelight in French she sings with quiet intensity Jacques Brel's 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'. Taking a strong political and feminist stance, Stevens performs intensely a speech from Antigone, another of her stage roles. She sings a raunchy rare Frederich Hollander song 'Chuck Out The Men'. She mourns 'The Man That Got Away,' phrasing it differently than Garland and making it her own. Making pacts with love again and again, she pushes us to the edge of despair with Leonard Cohen's 'Dance Me To The End of Love'. We have participated in the full spectrum of Stevens' brilliance and naked honesty.

This brings us back to Stevens on that ladder, now fearlessly falling backwards into the light. Stevens reprises 'Look Ma, No Hands,' realizing that every moment and every love of her life was one of passion and she has the strength to be proud of it and go on.

The most brilliant coup de theatre is Stevens' penultimate rendition of Brel’s 'Valse of Mille Temps (Karusel)' sung in Swedish. The song known in English as 'Carousel' begins slowly and each refrain suddenly becomes faster and faster and faster. Stevens knocked us out with her ferocious performance, never missing a note and communicating to us with her skill at the tongue-twisting lyrics, even in Swedish!!

For her encore, in a totally different mood and yet another lyrically different voice, Stevens sang sweetly a Zarah Leander song, the charming 'Church Bells.'"

Joe Regan Jr., Cabaret Exchange, NY

"Stevens is passion from the moment she walks on stage"
"Olivia Stevens is disarming. She is a pretty and vivacious young woman with an open, generous smile, bringing to mind Dana Delaney or a young Donna Reed. When she begins to sing, however, Stevens loses all guilelessness. She assumes control, goes for the thrills and the tremors, and takes no prisoners. Like the title of her show at the Metropolitan Room, Olivia – Passion, Olivia Stevens is passion from the moment she walks on stage, inviting all emotions the songs offer, and sinking into them with relish.

She is an actress. Her voice is strong and versatile, taking her into intoxicating low tones and gentle higher territory. It is her acting talent, however, and her energy and dance training that drive her performance with drama and grace.

While she has a robust belt, Stevens was most compelling in her softer numbers, consumed by life's questions in 'Where I Want to Be' (Chess) by Andersson/Ulvaeus and Tim Rice, and the poignancy and emptiness in 'Look Mommy, No Hands' (Keane). Director Eric Michael Gillett wrapped the show around the song's point, 'How careless we are when we're young.'

There are some cabaret fans who do not appreciate songs in other languages. I am not one of them; I enjoyed Stevens' compelling French and German renditions, with their mix of sentimentality and cynicism, and I got a personal kick out of hearing 'Cabaret' in Swedish. Stevens was accompanied by pianist Eric Rausch."

Elizabeth Ahlfors, Cabaret Scenes

"The versatile performer Olivia Stevens has returned to Malmö. After her celebrated Zarah Leander-show she's back with a personally revealing entertainment for connoisseurs – 'Passion'. A well-written soloextravaganza filled with comedy – set against a tragic backdrop.

It's he story of the young Bette Midler-imitator Olivia Stevens, who wanted to be someone. The story of a restless soul in a restless world - showbusiness. It´s about her falling in love with her co-actor in Malmö – who turns out to be gay.

It's the story of the hellishness of auditions. About dreams and loneliness in a worlwind of geniuses, drug addicts, vegetarians and demanding people. About a world where everyone steps on everyone. It's about the world that Olivia's lived in on while chasing after harmony. How she, on her 30th birthday, had three jobs and a concussion while her father was dying of cancer. – All I had was me.

This fascinating and enchanting story from the backsides of life is lined with melodies signed by Fred Ebb and John Kander, Kurt Weill, Bernstein, Gershwin, Leonard Cohen and Björn and Benny. The end point is Jacques Brels 'Carousel' – and life wirls on.

Last nights opening night audience thanked with a very long, warm round of applause. Olivia Stevens, and her pianist Bosse Johansson, deserved each and every one. A success encore at Victoria Theatre in Malmö, tonight."

Tony Kaplan, Expressen