6/12: Eder’s Back (and Two River’s Got Her)

Star of Broadway and bluejeans, Linda Eder returns to Red Bank when she performs in concert at Two River Theater, with a salute to her favorite SONGBIRDS on Thursday, June 14. (Photos by Carolina Palmgren)

Who knew that there were so many “other sides” to Linda Eder?

The singer and stage actress who made her mark on Broadway as the female lead in Jekyll & Hyde — one of several shows that she did with her then-husband, composer Frank Wildhorn — is arguably no stranger to multiple personalities; having honed her chops as an Atlantic City lounge singer, achieved household-name status as an undefeated champion on Star Search, and fronted big-time orchestras as a performer of Songbook standards and Tin Pan perennials.

When last we saw Linda Eder here in Red Bank, the footlights diva had traded in her ballgowns for bluejeans; touring in support of her country-pop album The Other Side of Me — and when she comes to Two River Theater this Thursday, June 14, Eder will not just be putting forth All of Me (the name of the show she’s toured with in recent years), she’ll be summoning several of her favorite Songbirds for a set that keynotes a renewed summer series of Intimate Evenings concert events at the Bridge Avenue arts center.

A “Tribute to the Ladies” who most inspired the star — including Judy Garland (to whom Eder recorded a tribute album in 2005), Lena Horne, Etta James, Barbra Streisand and the late, lamented singer-songwriter Eva Cassidy — the 7:30 pm show happens in the wake of Now, the acclaimed 2011 project that renewed her professional partnership with Wildhorn.

It’s also the first of several concerts going on at Two River during the interval between mainstage seasons — a series produced by MusicWorks Entertainment, the new concert promotion and production company co-founded by Rusty Young, until recently the chief executive officer of the Count Basie Theatre Foundation (the Monmouth Street theater’s “fundraising and friendraising” arm will also be hosting its own slate of four Intimate Evenings at Two River in June, July and August).

UpperWETside spoke to Linda Eder — dedicated mom, animal advocate, and icon of modern Broadway — on the eve of her encore in the Basie-birthing borough.

upperWETside: So your show in Red Bank on June 14 is being billed as An Intimate Evening with Linda Eder. Would this be a more scaled-back version of the touring show you’d normally bring to a theatre…maybe even a solo or duo setting?

LINDA EDER: Well, ‘intimate’ in this case means a smaller band; piano, bass, guitar…I have my music director Billy Jay Stein on piano, Allison Cornell, who plays violin and sings harmonies. I’ve done shows with three piece, five, seven piece bands — I’ve even done two-piece.

I’ve played the more intimate style shows at Feinstein’s and other places — it’s fun for the fans. A smaller band leaves so much space for the vocals, and while it’s always great to have a ‘two chairs deep’ orchestra, you can’t tie up all those guys if a big gig or a TV show comes their way.

Now, the last time we spoke was just prior to the last time you visited Red Bank — when you appeared at the Count Basie Theatre with a show in support of your country album from a couple of years ago; it was a real change of pace from the showtunes and standards concerts you had done prior to that. 

I called my touring show ALL OF ME  because it allowed me to do all kinds of music — it allows me to touch on everything that I like to do. I’m the type of person who gets bored doing one type of music too long — I don’t like to get pigeonholed.

I’m a country girl, but I always liked Sinatra and Broadway…I don’t know why it had such an appeal to me; I guess you’d have to be a freak like me to understand. It’s swing; its got that old fashioned feel to it that you just have to innately possess. Few acts can really do it well.

Would you say that your time as a lounge singer in Atlantic City helped you to master that sort of material? Were you able to take away anything positive from that time, anything valuable to your career down the road? 

I was there during the heyday in AC, when the hotels employed so many great musicians. I would do four shows a night for over six hours, doing whatever was popular at the time.

I was just a fixture there in the lounge at Harrah’s, as much as the waterfall in the bar — but it was great training; the kind of experience that isn’t easy to come by anymore.

As tough a slog as that might have been, wasn’t it more like performing on Broadway, in that everybody comes to YOU rather than you having to criss-cross your way around the country? 

You know, I have spent so much time waiting around in airports that I started to drive myself to gigs. I love to drive; I’m a gypsy who will think nothing of driving nine hours to Columbus, Ohio. I even drove nonstop to Minnesota once.

Where are you driving nonstop from Where’s home these days? 

Home is in Northville, New York — I’m a farmer; I live on a horse farm with my son. I drive a tractor!

So would you say you’ve achieved a nice measure of balance, getting to dress up in front of an orchestra one night, then being home on the farm the next day, doing shows for Animal Planet and such? 

I think I’m happier than a lot of entertainers. I’m 51 and I’ve had a long career, doing things I love to do — my fanbase is not based on one song. Having had a taste of what it’s like to NOT be left alone — I remember being on 45th Street, with people packed all around me — I’m much happier with things the way they are now.

I have just enough celebrity to allow me to have a normal life. And I get to wear overalls back home on the farm.

Tickets, priced at $79, are still available from the Two River online Ticket Purchase Window, with a limited number of $99 premium seating availabilities offered as well. The “Intimate Evenings” series continues at Two River Theater with appearances by Matthew Sweet (June 15), Paula Cole (June 27), Marc Cohn (July 22), Rickie Lee Jones (July 28), Pure Prairie League (July 29), Leon Redbone (August 19), Joan Osborne (August 24) and Judy Collins (August 25).

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