press reviews

Narration | Cabaret

She was like that

by Kate Walbert

Four narrators, Cassandra Campbell, Samantha Desz, Cynthia Farrell, and Devon Sorvari, are the perfect ensemble to instill emotion in 12 stories told from women’s perspectives. Characters vary in age, race, sexuality, and status but are connected by a sense of searching. Their agitation is illuminated in defining moments. Sometimes emotions are loud–such as the fear of a mother who loses her child at M&M World. Sometimes they are stated outright as when two mothers talk about their anxiety journals in short back-and-forth commentary in which social unease is masked by words slurred by wine. Other times what is left unsaid, like unrequited love, comes through in well-timed pauses. Each narrator speaks at a good pace in a distinctive tone that lets the author’s imagery shine.

A.L.C. © AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine [Published: MARCH 2020]


by Ellen Carol DuBois

Narrator Cynthia Farrell’s pace and energy engage listeners with this riveting history of the women’s suffrage movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. DuBois’s accomplished writing and Farrell’s magnetic performance capture the accelerating momentum of this national cause as women began leaving the domestic sphere to enter the workforce in increasing numbers. Farrell carries listeners through the movement’s evolution from the formation of suffrage associations through affiliations with trade unions and temperance societies to political protests, labor strikes, arrests, and participation in national and state political parties. The grit, determination, sacrifice, and struggle of leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul, and Carrie Chapman Catt come through in Farrell’s narration, as does the dynamic spirit of the movement itself. M.J.
© AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine [Published: MARCH 2020]

Queen of Bones

by Teresa Dovalpage

Narrator Cynthia Farrell’s mellifluous and confident rendering of Cuban speech patterns alternating with perfectly colloquial American ones gives the listener a delicious sense of having been transplanted to Havana, a treat you couldn’t get from the page alone. In Dovalpage’s atmospheric tale, Juan Chiong returns home 20 years after barely surviving his escape to Florida on a raft. He misses his old flame, Elsa, and has no idea that his best friend, Victor, is now Victoria, host of a prominent drag club. This is not the Cuba that Juan left behind. His prosperous American wife, Sharon, has at the last minute decided to come along precisely because she senses Juan doesn’t want her to. Bad idea. Farrell’s performance is atmospheric and assured, a delightful listen.

B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine [Published: JANUARY 2020]

The Secrets We Kept

by Lara Prescott

This ensemble performance of Laura Prescott’s novel, told from multiple points of view, reimagines from a female perspective one of the great Cold War coups–the smuggling into the West and publication in 1958 of Boris Pasternak’s DR. ZHIVAGO. In Washington, the narrators include “The Typists” at CIA headquarters, a young Russian-speaking agent, and a glamorous senior agent suspected of homosexuality. In Russia, the voice is Olga’s, Zhivago’s Lara, whose sufferings parallel and illuminate the fate of each character in the story. The novel’s interacting themes and parallels are wonderfully captured by the accomplished cast, who render these voices with such spirit and comprehension. One caution: The author doesn’t identify the narrator of new chapters; it helps to repeat the first quarter minute or so.

D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: OCTOBER 2019]

Old Bones

by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

This audiobook launches a new series from the Preston-Child writing team but is a challenging listen. The opening chapters are disjointed, and the narration often lacks variation. Narrator Cynthia Farrell paces the story well but struggles with voicing the characters and injecting enough distinction in conversations. The premise is promising. Archaeologist Nora Kelly is approached with the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to lead the search for the lost camp of the Donner Party. When Nora teams up with historian Clive Benton, the unearthing of the sad history leads to present-day violence and the arrival of young FBI agent Corrie Swanson. The story itself is compelling, but the narration doesn’t do it justice.

K.S.M. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2019]

What My Mother and I Don't Talk About

by Michele Filgate

In this audiobook unflinching essayists peel back layers of long-held pain in their lives. Writer/editor Michele Filgate narrates the introduction in a tone of earnestness that pulls the listener in as she reflects on her life-changing essay about being abused by her stepfather, along with the universal expectations of motherhood. Fajer Al-Kaisi, Roger Casey, Janina Edwards, Emily Ellet, Cynthia Farrell, Soneela Nankani, and David Sadzin are the talented narrators who bring us the rest of the essays, which take a searing look at mothers of all types in a range of styles suited to each essay. The more deft performances in this collection also illuminate the subtle role of fathers in filtering or overshadowing a child’s experience of their mother. Listeners will laugh, wince, and maybe cry.

M.R. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2019]

the Unhoneymooners

by Christina Lauren

Using a wry, minimally inflected tone, narrator Cynthia Farrell ensures that listeners enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor in this romance. Amy Torres, veteran contest winner, and Dane Thomas get married, using all her prizes. But it’s a disastrous wedding–everyone except Amy’s sister, Olive, and Dane’s brother, Ethan, gets violently sick. And Olive and Ethan don’t like each other, so going on their siblings’ honeymoon proves to be a challenge. Farrell’s matter-of-fact delivery of narrative contrasts with her dialogue–she fully captures Olive’s sharp, snappy tone and Ethan’s laid-back yet snarky comebacks. Farrell emotes throughout the oil-and-water relationship, adding humor and joy to the second half of the story. Deacon Lee narrates the epilogue in a deep, velvety voice to wrap up this rom-com. 

M.B.K. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019] source

This is how you lose the time war

by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Emily Woo Zeller and Cynthia Farrell’s dual narrations emphasize the divergent personalities of two time-traveling protagonists. Coolly portrayed by Farrell, Red sneers as she sees Blue, her foe, across a burning field. Red realizes that her attempt to alter the future was foiled by Blue, an agent of the opposition in an ongoing war that moves through time. Then, Red receives a letter from Blue–read in a taunting tone by Zeller–and the agents begin a cryptic correspondence as they sabotage each other’s missions. The two narrators deliver the rich and lyrical letters with increasing passion as each agent falls in love with her enemy. We hear their pain as they must choose between betraying each other–or their agencies. Listen, then listen again to unravel this intricate story, beautifully narrated.

E.E.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019] Source

The Mueller Report

by The Washington Post

Listening to this comprehensive report is a riveting and fascinating experience, and is made even more interesting by the talented narrators who present it. What’s more, the report is mostly written in a literate, conversational style that allows them to deliver it as a book as opposed to a dry government account. Alternating sections of the report, the narrators have individual strengths–from Gibson Frazier’s clear, accessible voice to Jayme Mattler’s urgent, spirited approach and Prentice Onayemi’s deep pitch and expressive tone. They all uncover the nuances of the report, are able to emphasize key ideas, and pause effectively to allow listeners to digest the information.

R.I.G. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2019] Source

The Cuban Comedy

by Pablo Medina

Narrator Cynthia Farrell becomes young Elena of Piedra Negra, Cuba. The aspiring poet from the country dreams of something other than making the firewater that is her family’s business. Farrell captures the dreamy possibilities of the postrevolutionary period, which is contrasted with the ugly reality of everyone spying on their neighbors. Farrell deftly handles the occasional Spanish words peppered throughout the story, giving the listening experience a musical quality. Fans of world literature will sink into this listening experience as Elena transforms from a country girl to a poet in the city.

M.R. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019] Source

Such a Perfect Wife

by Kate White

Listening to this comprehensive report is a riveting and fascinating experience, and is made even more interesting by the talented narrators who present it. What’s more, the report is mostly written in a literate, conversational style that allows them to deliver it as a book as opposed to a dry government account. Alternating sections of the report, the narrators have individual strengths–from Gibson Frazier’s clear, accessible voice to Jayme Mattler’s urgent, spirited approach and Prentice Onayemi’s deep pitch and expressive tone. They all uncover the nuances of the report, are able to emphasize key ideas, and pause effectively to allow listeners to digest the information.

R.I.G. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2019] Source


by Anna Quindlen

Narrator Cynthia Farrell makes this charming look at grandparenting a treat for everyone, especially new grandparents (and parents) everywhere. Channeled by Farrell, former NEW YORK TIMES columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anna Quindlen plops listeners unceremoniously and often hilariously into her earliest days in grandma mode. From the moment she looks into her first grandson’s eyes, she knows that, should it ever become necessary, she will fight dragons for him. She investigates her perfectly normal yet painful feelings of being displaced, no longer a leading character but a supporting player in her children’s lives. She reminds us that “Nana judgment must be employed judiciously, and exercised carefully.” Farrell delivers Quindlen’s gentle wisdom and worldly wit to perfection, proving herself an expert tour guide through NANAVILLE.

S.J.H. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2019] Source


by Kathleen Kent

This entry in contemporary crime fiction by a historical novelist may remind listeners of the Sara Paretsky series: good writing, sexual polemics, clear adversaries. Brooklyn cop Betty Rhyzyk and her girlfriend relocate to Dallas, Texas, where Betty battles with culture shock and a series of complex cases. Narrator Cynthia Farrell is an asset, handling the Texas accents well, particularly that of a hyper-religious, grandma-like cult leader. Farrell enunciates the latter trait in this character–making her tone one of tolerant, sweet reason as she actually dispenses a mix of doctrinal idiocies and scary maternal advice. Both Kent and Farrell make it clear that the Betty is a strong, complex–and sometimes implacable–woman. In her situation, she has to so be.

D.R.W. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2017] Source

Weight of Feathers

by Anna Marie Mclemore

Narrators Kirby Heyborne and Cynthia Farrell enhance the beauty of the language in this story. In the two decades since the accident that killed a member of each family, the Palomas and Corbeaus have clashed bitterly as they compete for the biggest audiences. The Hispanic Palomas strive to mesmerize their audiences with beguiling mermaids swimming in lakes and rivers, while the French Corbeaus seek to amaze with their fairies walking the tallest treetops. The narrators depict the meeting and subsequent relationship between Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau, flavoring their performances with authentic accents and a tempered pace that matches the magical realism of this star-crossed tale. The dual reading reflects the emotional struggles both teens experience as they fight their feelings, and their families, to stay together.

J.M. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2016] Source

What Motivates Getting Things Done

by Mary Lamia

Dear Michele Cobb (of MMB Media/VP Audiofile Magazine) ,

Yesterday I discovered that my book, What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotion, and Success, is on Audible. I was quite apprehensive as I downloaded the audiobook. Although I am a psychologist and professor, I also hosted a talk show on Radio Disney stations for nine years and there I became familiar with the world of voice acting. Adding to my trepidation during the download was a recent disappointing experience with my publisher who inadvertently ran out of books 3 weeks following the release, with none available until mid-September (Amazon had to cancel pending orders). Clearly, I needed some activation of joy that seemed to be as unavailable as my book.

Cynthia Farrell’s voice not only brought my book to life, but gave me profound pleasure. Her narration was exceptional and her prosodic excellence is unmatched. As someone who has researched emotions and understands how they are conveyed in vocal rhythms and tones, I have firm conviction that Cynthia Farrell will garner the interest and attention of those who listen to the book. As an example, I later handed the headset to my husband, simply asking him to listen “for a minute” to the narration. He ended up in an easy chair with a smile on his face, asking for more time when I wanted it back. Clearly, Cynthia Farrell’s cadence and intonation are mesmerizing. Moreover, in the book are two brief sentences in Italian. Since my parents spoke to each other in Italian throughout my childhood, the narration of those words was important to me; specifically, the flow and pattern of sounds. I skipped to those sentences in the last chapter and again listened with a critical ear. I felt at home. Yet in listening to that chapter I also noticed an important subtlety: Through her voice Cynthia Farrell captured how the last chapter of the book is significantly more personal than the rest.

Thus, I want to express my wholehearted appreciation to Audible for choosing Cynthia Farrell as the narrator for my book. If I eventually find the energy to write a sixth book, I would love to have Cynthia Farrell be my voice.

Mary Lamia

Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D.

Shoot like a Girl

by Mary Jennings Hegar

Refusing to give up in the face of military sexism, MJ—author Mary Jennings Hegar—becomes an Air National Guard helicopter pilot, serving three tours in Afghanistan and receiving a Purple Heart for heroism. Despite her accomplishments, however, she continues to encounter gender prejudice when she returns to the U.S. Narrator Cynthia Farrell’s almost masculine timbre captures Hegar’s innate toughness without losing sight of her pride in being a woman. Slight changes in accent and inflection serve to differentiate the many male characters, sympathetic and otherwise, who surround the young pilot. Farrell lends immediacy and humanity to an inspiring wartime memoir.

C.M.A. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2017] Source


For Real 2.0

by Joel Benjamin | April 14, 2014

Cynthia Farrell took the stage at the Metropolitan Room on April 10th with the determined tread of a tough cookie, her sharp features emphasized by a pixie hairdo, but when she opened her mouth to sing she revealed vulnerability and pathos. Her successful professional career, which includes dubbing a voice for an immensely popular foul-mouthed video game character, was nearly undermined by a deteriorating marriage which began, like most, as a true romance.

Stephen Schwartz’s “Chanson” evoked her contentment in everyday pleasures while “100 Years” (Five for Fighting) went even further in its suggestion of life’s wonders at every age. Both songs were sung in a soft but deep voice, savoring every emotion. She used her tenderly rendered “Loving You” (Sondheim) and “I Have a Love” (Bernstein/Sondheim) to express her almost blind dedication to her soon to be ex, the latter sounding more weary than passionate. She visited her Latino side in Roman Rojas’ “Oscuridad” and mentioned some very poor advice her mother gave her which brought Ms. Farrell’s marriage only closer to dissolution.

Her “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell) was slow and, for once, had deep personal resonance while her interpretation of Sondheim’s “Move On,” though superficially upbeat, was acted with just a touch of desperation. Michel Legrand’s “Piece of Sky,” the title character in Streisand’s Yentl’s anthem, was stripped of overwrought emotions with which it’s usually performed and given a small-scale intensity that registered like a lasar beam in the confines of this small cabaret room.

Her yearnings came through loud and clear in Sondheim’s “Being Alive.” But, it was a sweet, lovely “Blackbird” (Paul McCartney) that ended the program on a quiet note.

The arrangements by her music director/accompanist Fran Minarik were sophisticated, often creating exciting tension between the vocal and piano lines. His versions of these well-known songs were always fresh.

Read the full review here

For Real

by Stephen Sorokoff "A Voice to be Heard"

Usually the thick velvet curtains that separate the bar area from the performance room of the Metropolitan Room prevent you from hearing a vocalist. Not so with Cynthia Farrell. Her thick velvet dexterous and powerful voice resounded gloriously in all corners of this famed 22nd street bastion for singers.  The title of her show says a lot, “For Real” and Cynthia is definitely the real deal. The intensity and earnestness she brings to her performance can at times be quite mesmerizing.  Check her out, you’ll be treated to a “real” voice singing some of those Broadway “real’ songs.

Source: Times Square Chronicles | Article no longer available

A Piece on Cynthia Farrell

by Mark Dundas Wood | June 29, 2013

With her smooth, controlled, powerful voice, her deep concentration, and her diligent attention to enunciation and phrasing, Cynthia Farrell, now making her cabaret debut at Don’t Tell Mama, is a talent to keep a sharp eye on. The emotional intensity she can bring to a song, along with the way she pronounces certain words while singing, call to mind the spell-weaving early work of Jane Olivor. At one point in the evening, Farrell notes that she’s “half Mexican.” But there’s something in the way she sings certain phrases that sounds Irish (something her surname would support). Whatever her heritage, she’s a singer with presence.

The highlight of the set is a moving, flawlessly executed medley of Stephen Sondheim’s “Loving You” and Leonard Bernstein and Sondheim’s “I Have a Love.” Every note of the medley is full-bodied, assured, and lovely. Together, the pair of songs becomes a confession of romantic obsession and a coming to terms with that obsession. Farrell smiles at moments at the hopelessness of her overpowering devotion, but it’s a wise smile—and therefore a slightly sad one.

Farrell’s program has an autobiographical slant. She and writer-director James Horvath have created a story arc about finding love, starting a family, having it all fall apart, and then rebounding through a program of self-reflection and inner-strength building. It’s a familiar tack, of course, to build an act around one’s personal journey. It’s not what I would have recommended for a debut show, but for the most part, Farrell makes it work—although the narrative thread gets lost during parts of the program. The most interesting use of a song in service of her personal tale is the repurposing of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” as a celebration of the exorcism of the witch-like part of her personality that emerged following the collapse of her marriage This song is the lightest fare of the evening—and the jazz-inflected arrangement gives Farrell a chance to do some sprightly scat singing. On the night I saw her, “Ding-Dong!” was a crowd pleaser.

Not all of the selections are as effective. I believe this is due in part to some of the arrangements by musical director and pianist Fran Minarik, which tend to be heavy on dissonance and a kind of edgy, experimental quality that sometimes proves distracting. For instance, the opening number, Bernstein and Sondheim’s “Something’s Coming,” is outfitted with a kind of avant-garde boogie-woogie underpinning that doesn’t serve the singer at all. Here I felt Farrell was swimming upstream against the current of Minarik’s playing.

But—like the Sondheim/Bernstein medley—other selections, such as the trembling-with-emotion “100 Years” (John Ondrasik), are delivered in a graceful, resonant voice. Farrell gets to show off her talent for belting on two forceful numbers that close the program: Sondheim’s “Being Alive” and Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s “A Piece of Sky.” I would have advised her to pick one of these and discard the other in favor of something less bombastic. She does return to a quieter mode for her encore, Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird.” There are some moments of phrasing in that number that suggest that Farrell would do well to add some blues-oriented selections in future shows. I’d also like to hear what she can do with something in a swinging, lilting key—perhaps some up-tempo Gershwin or Berlin. As with her inclusion of “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” such additions might offset the dramatic selections, thereby making them seem even stronger and more poignant.