Veteran chanteuse Maureen McGovern’s “musical memoir,” A Long and Winding Road (at the Calderwood Pavilion through November 15), is a cabaret act gussied up — and messed up — by lavish attempts to turn it into a theater piece. The undertaking began, in fact, as a cabaret act (at New York’s Metropolitan Room) and then became a CD. Now, in its world premiere from the Huntington Theatre Company in collaboration with DC’s Arena Stage, it’s a one-woman show about turning 60 after coming of age in the ’60s and surviving the subsequent decades girded by the folk idealism of, among others, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King. McGovern started out “a young girl with a guitar” but, having set her very capable tonsils against the melodic blasts of “The Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure and “We May Never Love like This Again” from The Towering Inferno, became “the disaster-theme queen.” From there she moved to Broadway. Now she wants her “Feelin’ Groovy” groove back.
McGovern remains a pitch-perfect, relaxed-even-when-belting pop stylist as well as a likable on-stage presence; she nails Connie Francis’s whine on “Where the Boys Are” and amuses with a medley of doo-wop intros. She brings jazzy heft to Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” and silken acceptance to the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” But the narrative bridges between numbers, set against projections of the galaxy, the Vietnam Memorial, icons of the civil-rights movement, and McGovern’s own baby pictures, are stiff — at once self-important and generic. Music, McGovern opines (along with scientists quoted in the program), is the madeleine that triggers memory. Henceforth, when feeling nostalgic, she should just sing for her succor.
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