Written and Performed by Cynthia Shaw
A musical journey about wrong notes, hard knocks, and the keys to success.
"...moving, inspiring, funny..."
"Your timing was terrific!"
"You were radiant."
"...honest, expressive, humorous..."
"A lot of emotional range."
"Best Festival Debut"
United Solo Festival
Galway Fringe, 2019
Boulder Fringe, 2019
"Best Solo Show"
From the classic John Thompson lesson books, daily piano practicing and ticking metronomes, Cynthia enjoyed her cheerful Colorado childhood of music-making. All it took was picking up a random New Yorker magazine in her pediatrician’s office to awaken her artistic soul and fixate her desires on New York City and its esteemed Manhattan School of Music.
Realizing her musical “holy grail”, however, proves to be a bit more difficult than she innocently expected. As she struggles with her self-sabotaging demons, shaky memorization, insufficient technique and the fear that no one truly wants to listen to her play, she masters resilience. She endures sweltering practice rooms, music-hating neighbors, condescending teachers AND a falling piano. These and other obstacles confront this naive, wide-eyed young classical pianist who tackles the Big Apple!
In this autobiographical show, Cynthia embodies the youthful determination of her younger self as well as the many idiosyncratic characters who inspired her, each of whom impresses in their own unique kindly, worldly, insightful, brilliant, intimidating and arrogant way. She thrills her audience with musical impersonations of world-famous classical pianists as she remembers hearing them at the legendary Carnegie Hall. AND...she beautifully demonstrates her own musical sensitivity and formidable technique performing live classical piano music, featuring Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Schubert.
July 9-16, 2019
"When Cynthia Shaw sits down at the piano and casually busts out Bach's Allegro from Italian Concerto, you know Velvet Determination is not your average Fringe show....the story is impactful...Shaw's tenacity in moving forward after failure is inspiring."
Hilary Sutton, review, DC Metro Theater
July 22-28, 2019
"Great show. Highly recommended...Excellent show combining great acting with many very short piano recitals. A great enthralling story based on true events."
Paul Campbell, audience member
August 15-24, 2019
"Cynthia is SO talented." "Where else can you get a great story about determination, resilience and following your dream?...listening to Cynthia’s fabulous skills at the piano shows the rewards in her journey." "...If you have been told "you are not good enough" you will really resonate with this show".
Audience members' responses
"Colorado local...Cynthia...displays a sweet on-stage innocence as she spins her tale through piano, song and storytelling. I left her show asking the question, 'Do we succeed because of our demons, or despite them?"
Sara Sahara, Boulder Fringe Reviewer
New York City Review
James Bartholomew of 'All About Solo'
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. But if you asked Cynthia Shaw, she’d probably tell you something else. She’d say it takes determination…as she discovers what it takes to become a professional pianist in the Big Apple.
Of course, determination is nothing without good obstacles to overcome, and Shaw’s story has plenty. The emotional heavy lifting comes from Shaw’s lovely performance, not just as her younger self, but also as a rogues’ gallery of side characters she meets on her journey. Whether playing pretentious urban socialites, Salvation Army majors, or chattering old women on the crosstown bus, Shaw gives each of her characters a charming and often humorous flair that always sells the scene. Even her villains have a charismatic allure that keeps you smiling and wanting more.
…the biggest sell…is Shaw’s excellent piano playing, which accompanies the piece. The emphasis on music makes “Velvet Determination” a showcase for Shaw’s evolution as a pianist told in the medium of music, rather than just a linear narrative of her history moving to New York. In isolation, the nuts and bolts of the show’s plot are humorous and charming, but light on substance. Paired with Shaw’s beautiful playing and knack for whimsical storytelling, however, the play is a delight. If you’re looking for an uplifting affirmation of the rewards of hard work, look no further than “Velvet Determination.”
Read the entire review HERE