Queens honors great women of song
For her one-woman show Queens, Jordan Quinn sets a high bar, channeling iconic singers from Ella Fitzgerald to Adele. Her impressive list also includes Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Donna Summer, Chaka Khan and Quinn’s personal favorite, Whitney Houston.
“I save Whitney as the last song of the night because she’s just the best vocalist ever, and her ear is phenomenal,” Quinn said in a recent phone interview. “Of all of those women, it’s always Whitney I relate to most musically.” In particular, she draws inspiration from the story of how Houston came to record “I Will Always Love You,” her biggest hit.
“The first time she heard that song, she rejected it, because it was a country version, Dolly Parton, right? Then her buddy came up to her and … encouraged her to listen to the song with her ears — what would she do with it? She listened again and then decided that she would do it.”
To Quinn, trailblazing is what makes a singer Queens-worthy.
“A woman who was able to influence those to come and who other artists strive to be like,” she said, which explains the inclusion of many contemporary artists. “Lady Gaga is important because she brought a lot of techno to the music. Adele because of all the soul and jazz elements; she kind of keeps that genre alive.”
Though she includes songs from the Queens lineup in her solo act, the show itself is new, first performed Sept. 16 in Dover. Quinn’s father suggested the idea a few years ago. “He presented it to me, and I was just way too shy to even attempt to do this,” she said. “Then I started working with some other tribute bands, and I started learning from them.”
Prominent among those groups is Queen Flash; she sang “Somebody to Love” with them on a few occasions. She opened for them at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, Mass., earlier this year. “Freddie Mercury is my personal Queen,” Quinn said with a laugh.
For Queens’ debut in her hometown of Manchester on Friday, Oct. 13, the audience will be invited to take part, with a Halloween costume element.
“I think it would be super fun to have them come dressed up as their favorite queen,” Quinn said, noting that there will be a red carpet for participants to walk across prior to her performance.
Choosing which song to do was almost harder than picking singers, so she’s decided against locking one tune in for each.
“Now that we have the foundation down, the idea is, let’s learn a couple of songs from each artist,” she said. “Then, night of the show, let’s figure out which ones we want to do. That way, it’s not the same thing every time.”
She’s still looking at adding artists.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t have Britney on there and I don’t know why, but I need her. Christina Aguilera. There’s just so many. Taylor Swift, especially after her tour this year, she’s just totally popping off and I’m like, ‘Great, another woman!’ It’s gonna be a four-hour show.”
A theater kid growing up, Quinn shaped the evening into more than a concert. She had help from her dad, who isn’t a musician but has solid instincts. “It’s insane to me that he’s not in the business,” she said. “He comes up with the ideas and then I take on the theatrical side of it … like 10 to 15 costume changes, an apron and fake prop milkshakes for ‘She Works Hard for the Money.’ It’s a lot of fun.”
Quinn’s group for the show includes guitarist Ben Holiday, Moira Applebaum on keys, a rhythm section of drummer Scott Armstrong and bassist Matt Nemeskal, along with backing vocalists Genesis Toledo and Rebecca Turmel.
“Their talent is just phenomenal,” Quinn said. “I truly wouldn’t be here without them.”
Queens featuring Jordan Quinn
When: Friday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 21 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $29 at palacetheatre.org
Featured photo: Jordan Quinn. Courtesy photo.