Those of us old enough to remember the excitement of buying a new vinyl record album and devouring every song’s linear notes shared on the back or inner sleeve will certainly understand the appeal of Rita Wilson’s LINER NOTES, which enjoyed its fourth tour at the Geffen’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater in Westwood from Jan. 10-13 as part of the Geffen Playhouse Spotlight Entertainment Series.
The evening offered not only great entertainment but lots of insider information on what went into the creation of many favorite songs from the actual songwriters themselves.
Best known for her work as an actor, film, activist and the wife of actor Tom Hanks, Wilson has accessed a powerful, deeply personal outlet with her songwriting. Her third and latest album “Bigger Picture” released Sept. 28, 2018 featuring songs co-written by accomplished Nashville songwriters including The Warren Brothers who joined Wilson onstage in-the-round at Geffen, along with songwriters Holly Knight and Billy Steinberg, guitarist and vocalist Andrew Doolittle and Michael Farrell on keyboards.
Perhaps the songwriters’ names are not familiar to you, but certainly their songs included in “Liner Notes” will be.
Among the evening’s selections, Billy Steinberg performed two of his most popular songs: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Cindy Lauper’s “True Colors” which got the audience singing along, raising the emotional connection to his words within the small theater.
Other songs shared during his sets included the Bangles “Eternal Flame,” which was inspired by the eternal flame at Elvis’ Graceland memorial as well as the eternal flame in his Jewish synagogue.
Wilson shared stories about her immigrant parents and the struggles her father endured escaping Bulgaria to Turkey before working shoveling coal on a freighter to make his way to America as an introduction to her song “The Heart He Handed Down,” inspired after she discovered the importance of so many generations of family birthdays on Dec. 26. Even more personal was her sharing about surviving breast cancer, singing the song she wrote encouraging her husband to “throw her a party” and “dance like I’m still there” if she leaves this world before he does. Its joyous flavor certainly encourages celebrating the good times rather than mourning the loss of a loved one.
The Warren Brothers (Brad and Brett) have written songs for Nashville stars including Tim McGraw (“Felt Good on my Lips” was the first song the duo performed), Toby Keith (his “Red Solo Cup” was the hit comical tune of the night), Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton and many more.
Their beautiful harmonies enhanced every song shared during the two-hour performance, and it was easy to see the seven entertainers were thoroughly enjoying every moment onstage together.
Holly Knight shared her hit song “Love is a Battlefield” was written about and dedicated to her three ex-husbands before Pat Benatar recorded it. Several of her songs became hits for Tina Turner, including “Better Be Good to Me” recorded after her break-up with Ike, and “The Best,” which Tina considers her favorite and signature song. Thriving on diversity, Knight’s songs have appeared on records totaling over 500 million in sales as well as a variety of movie and TV soundtracks.
Rita Wilson’s “Liner Notes” created the atmosphere of sitting in on a jam session with talented musicians who really loved talking about the creation of their music and sharing it in exactly the way it was originally written to be performed. This “behind-the-scenes” event is so popular with Geffen audiences, look for its return and other upcoming shows this year at www.GeffenPlayhouse.org and order your tickets quickly!