Friday, May 31, 2013

cabaret review CHRISTINE EBERSOLE, NJPAC, May 11

Christine Ebersole is a gifted dramatic actress and comedienne and those skills make her cabaret shows into something better than most cabaret shows out there.  She so effortlessly segues from standard ballads to upbeat songs to comedic numbers with well written and delivered patter that is both humorous and related to the song choices, all without missing a beat.  And her connection to the lyrics is almost on par with Barbara Cook, who is the master of connecting to every word in every song she sings.  Ebersole's recent show at the NJPAC was another stellar affair.  

A swinging "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead" opened up the show followed by the humorous "You Forgot Your Gloves."   Christine got every nuance, including joy and sorrow out of "Blame It On My Youth."  Ebersole manages to add many personal stories into her shows, including talking about her thoughts about aging which the song "Keep Young and Beautiful" perfectly spoke to, and her journey to Hollywood from Broadway which was capped off by a rousing "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe."

Her shows often have moments when she speaks about her parents, her husband and three adopted children and this one had some humorous and touching moments including a simply lovely version of "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine" from Show Boat.  A story and song that have become somewhat of a staple in her shows followed where Christine talks about her early days in New York City where 42nd Street wasn't a place that you'd want to visit but would be a street where she'd excel on many years later by winning a Tony award for her role in the revival of 42nd Street that actually played in a theatre on 42nd Street.  That story includes a hysterical reading of a Robert Frost poem read by the character she won her other Tony award for, Edie Beale in Grey Gardens.  Christine then gave a rip roaring take on 42nd Street's showstopping title number.

Christine spoke about the time when she knew she finally "made" it in Hollywood when she appeared in the tabloids when they wrote about the time she adopted two children on the same day.  A "true" story in the tabloids for a change she added.  In one night they went from a family of three to a family of five and she perfectly ended the story by adding that she realized on that night that "although fame in Hollywood had eluded me, my fortunes were asleep in my arms."  A touching pairing of "Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan and "If I Were a Bell" from Guys and Dolls followed that perfectly got across the joy she must have felt on that evening.

A stunning pairing of songs that included a few verses from "When the World Was Young" that segued into "Another Winter in a Summer Town" from Grey Gardens showed why Christine deserved her Tony for that show.  Her delivery of the lyrics in an emotional way is not just effortless but natural as well. 

Christine now lives with her family in Maplewood, NJ which she lovingly mentioned with the simple statement, "Hollywood? Maplewood?  What a difference a leaf makes!"   She also mentioned her 90 year old mother who recently lived with her family for ten years but is now suffering memory loss.  Her mother would sometimes plays Methodist hymnals at the piano and Christine then delivered a touching take on the hymn "How Can I Keep from Singing"

Christine ended the show with a slowed down but still rousing version of "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries."  She followed this with an encore of "If You Haven't Got a Lot" that was a tribute to Eartha Kitt that was prefaced by Christine saying "I'm back. It's one of the funny conventions of cabaret, the false exit. I appreciate your warm and generous applause to bring me back on the stage even though I was coming back anyway!"  She ended the show with a second encore of "If You're Young at Heart" that was both simple and a lovely reminder of how classic songs can cap off a perfect evening.

John Oddo led a quartet of skilled musicians who made the evening seem just as effortless as Christine does.

Christine's official website

Christine sings "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" :

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