30 November 2010

The Ascendancy of Ann Harada

Melly Chlistmas!

Last night, the Broadway diva Ann Harada returned to her best-known character, Christmas Eve from Avenue Q, for a gala performance to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Accompanied by a male harem of other Broadway stars, she sang, danced, and had me howling with laughter, for an impeccably good cause.

Yet her achievement is all the more remarkable when I phrase my lead sentence a bit differently: This girl I knew in college is an authentic Broadway diva now. And while I often find myself astonished by the miracles my friends can accomplish — from singing Strauss to building houses, from writing operas to cooking choucroûte à l’oie — the job classification is so particular, the designation so select, the number of office-holders so small, that my astonishment in Ann’s case bears repeating.

This girl I knew in college is an authentic Broadway diva now.

We had clues, even in college, and I suppose I had more than most others, since I watched Ann in every rehearsal and performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at Brown. She played the Old Lady, and I can vouch for the fact that she didn’t rely merely on comical incongruity (tiny young woman of Asian-American heritage plays battered Rovno-Gubernian crone with nearly impenetrable Borscht Belt accent) to make an impact. Watching her cavort in “I Am Easily Assimilated,” you knew she was a star on the rise.

But success on the stage of Faunce House in Providence doesn’t entirely prepare a performer for a career on Broadway, and a number of actors (including this writer) retire when they graduate. To succeed in New York, an actor has to possess plenty of luck and pluck, yes, and Ann had to work and to wait for a very long time before her big break. But during that time, she had also built upon her strengths and skills, as an actor must, in order to blossom like a flower when the little sun of the spotlight fell on her at last.

Deeply Felt Performances: Ann and Friends in Avenue Q

So it’s fascinating for me to see Ann now — and especially fascinating to listen to her. She was always terrific, as I say, and yet she’s audibly grown up. Her voice in maturity is a thing of beauty and power, her registers seamless and her range (as she demonstrated by taking the Sarah Brightman part in a duet from Phantom of the Opera last night) phenomenal. I’m now confident that the note she can’t hit has never been written. Get her enough Avenue Q puppets, and she could sing the Lucia sextet as a solo.

Beyond technique, her voice has character, and that’s perhaps the most wonderful thing about Ann’s singing. Whether big and brassy or tender and sweet, she sounds like a real Broadway diva — which is to say that she sounds entirely and exclusively like herself. (And possibly a little bit like the legions of gay men who are imitating her at any given moment.)

Earlier this fall, I saw Ann in My Jewish Mother’s Lesbian Wiccan Wedding, opposite Liz Larsen (right) as the Jewish Mother.
This was the first time I’d seen Ann onstage in —
well, never mind how long.

It would be lovely to take credit for Ann’s talent, or even just to say I’d witnessed every step in its evolution, but the sad fact of the matter is that, as Ann gently pointed out, I wasn’t around. Her phenomenal career must be included among the many other developments (the growth of friends’ children, the disappearance of old haunts, etc.) for which my long Rip van Winkle nap hasn’t prepared me.

Yet how thrilling it is to wake up, to hear Ann, and to realize that she’s in her prime as a Broadway diva. Sometime tonight, in a piano bar near you, someone will imitate her. And right now, somewhere in the Midwest, some kid is playing her recordings, and singing along with her. Another New York story has begun.

Even if you didn’t attend her show last night, you can make Ann (and me) very happy, by making a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Just click here.

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29 November 2010

Entertainment News

Sit back and enjoy the show! There is no reason to worry.
By the way, is there a doctor in the house?

AUCKLAND -- Shooting has been suspended indefinitely on Peter Jackson’s long-awaited film The Hobbit, a “prequel” to his immensely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–03), based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels. Producers cited safety concerns stemming from Julie Taymor’s Broadway stage musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, currently in previews.

New Zealand actors’ unions confirmed a general concern that actors performing risky stunts in Spider-Man might injure hobbits performing in Jackson’s film. Hobbits, a diminutive race of humanoids, are not typically represented by any labor union and are often uninsured, meaning that a Spider-Man chorus member falling from a single failed slingshot stunt might crush as many as six or seven hobbits, leading to significant production delays.

Director Jackson
Previous production delays caused by global shortages of
Oscar Sheen© Patented Oscar© Polish

Production on The Hobbit has been delayed or suspended several times in recent years, due to the scheduling conflicts of principal actors, directors, and screenwriters; financial difficulties at MGM Studios; construction and other technical setbacks; and by the presence of hydrogen in the earth’s atmosphere.

Looking to break box-office records, bones: The Edge, Taymor, Bono

Featuring music by members of the rock band U-2, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been plagued by accidents even before previews began, yesterday. The show follows in the tradition of Broadway musicals with high injury rates and poorly conceived titles, including My Fair Turn-Off (12 dead, 73 injured); West Side Disappointment (6 dead, 27 injured); A Little Night Mucus (3 dead, 47 injured, 12 still missing); and Rags (no survivors).

Carnage: Not Just a Comic-Book Character Any More

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27 November 2010

The Friendly Skies

No fun for anybody

The holiday travel season has begun in the United States, and this year it’s marked by new security measures, including full-body scans and pat-downs at airport checkpoints. Many Americans are protesting these measures, saying they’re intrusive, immodest, unhealthy, and probably not effective. Sadly, I’m unable to judge, because — despite taking sev­er­al plane trips in recent weeks — I haven’t been patted down, and if any­body used a full-body scanner on me, I didn’t see it.

However, I did get a look at my fellow travelers, and I must say to you now, Mr. and Ms. Mid-America, that absolutely nobody wants to see or touch your fat ass: you are in lamentable shape, and if anybody (in­clud­ing your spouse) comes near you, it’s strictly from an ir­re­proach­a­ble, altruistic, and possibly heroic sense of duty. Admit it. The truth is, you’re only protesting the new security measures because you’re em­bar­rassed about how terrible you look. But as Mom and Dad used to say, you should have thought of that before you left for the airport, shouldn’t you?

Don’t think, however, that — just because I have a 30-inch waist and weigh less than I did in high school — I am unsympathetic to your dis­com­fort. That’s why I have come up with the following, ingenious solu­tion to make airport security more fun for everybody.

Clearly concealing something

Solution 1: The Full-Somebody-Else’s-Body Scan
The TSA has inaugurated full-body scans not because it wants to look at your junk, but because it wants to see whether you’ve got any dangerous material concealed anywhere on your person. They don’t want to see you — and why should they? With my proposed technology, the scan­ning device will superimpose X-ray images of the aforementioned dan­ger­ous materials — over a stock image of man or woman who is much more attractive than you will ever be. Indeed, I believe that the use of such stock images (such as these, of pop singer Beyoncé Knowles and fashion model Carlos Freire) might actually compel security agents to pay closer than usual attention to the scan­ning device, making air travel even safer for everyone.

In urgent need of frisking

Solution 2: Pat-a-Cake Pat-Downs
Much of the problem with pat-downs is psychological: the traveler feels humiliated not only because s/he is a fat slob, but also because s/he is being treated like a potential terrorist. So why not allow passengers to feel better about themselves — by feeling about the security agents? For every pat received during the pat-down, a pat may be given by the pas­sen­ger to the agent conducting the search. Basically, it’s like the baby game of pat-a-cake, only you’d be using the entire body. Agents* would be discouraged from engaging in excessive, unnecessary, or im­prop­er pats, while passengers would play a more active part in keeping the skies safe.

And by bringing so many Americans together in the War on Terror, could­n’t we do wonders for this country’s patriotic morale!

My turn next!

*NOTE: Based on the random sampling I’ve seen in American air­ports, the percentage of security agents who are built like Greek gods is zero. When it comes to being fat slobs, they have as much to hide as you do, folks.

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22 November 2010

Le Café Matinal

Un grand crème avec son croissant nec plus industriel

If you are in France for very long, but don’t have access to a coffee maker — or, heaven forbid, you are staying in a hotel that doesn’t offer breakfast — you will sooner or later wind up at the counter or terrace of a sidewalk café, at an hour when everyone else is still at home. In short, you will be enjoying an authentic experience, one of the small but treasured daily pleasures I’ve found in France over the years.

A French café in the early morning is considerably less romantic than the same spot will be in the afternoon, but the first advantage is that you will not be surrounded by tourists. Instead, you will be surrounded by gruff, shadowy, hunched figures who clutch at their grand crème as if their lives depended on it, and mumble at the sports pages as if they actually understood the rules of soccer.

The chances are very good that some of these fellows — and, at the counter, they are always men — are spiking their morning coffee with a little cognac. If the customers are women, shop girls or vendeuses, the chances are even better that they’re enhancing the brew. A friend used to take his coffee near the Grands Magasins, where he quickly learned why the French standards of customer service are so peculiar. The shopgirls are buzzed even before they get to work.

Their conversation is terse and perfunctory. The French at their morning café often appear to be hung over, and perhaps they are: at any rate, they do not want chatter or music. If there’s a television playing, the volume is usually turned down or off.

The weather in France tends to be damp at all times of year, which is why you are very unlikely to take a table on the terrace at this early hour. The moisture in the air muffles all but the loudest sounds — and paradoxically perhaps these seem even louder by contrast with the dull, sleepy silence all about. Garbage and delivery trucks and street sweepers rage and groan; they seem to shake the stones from the pavement, and you cannot hear anything else. But then they pass, and the streets are quiet again.

You nurse your coffee as if it were a restorative elixir, which it is. The brew is much stronger here than it is in any diner in the United States, and less bitter than what you would find chez Starbuck (a pernicious institution that has made ruthless inroads in France in recent years).

You will have the option of ordering a petit déjeuner, meaning a croissant and/or a few slabs of baguette, more or less fresh, served with obdurate pats of butter and perhaps a little dish of apricot or raspberry preserves. You aren’t required to order these things, much less to eat them, any more than you are required to smoke cigarettes: it only seems more French when you do.

The proof is standing at the counter. If you look at the grizzled gentleman in the cloth cap and threadbare overcoat, standing next to you, you will see that he eats nothing, and he lights his cigarette only when he leaves.

If you are reading one of the left-wing newspapers — especially Libération — indeed, if you are reading any paper but L’Equipe — you risk a disdainful look from that grizzled gentleman and a comment muttered under his fetid breath. Congratulate yourself: you are now a political martyr, another Jean Jaurès.

The Fatal Café, 1914:
Jaurès was fatally wounded in the 2nd Arrondissement.

The grizzled gentleman will know the bartender, of course, and you will not. You may eavesdrop discreetly on their conversation, but in no circumstances should you laugh, even if one of them says something funny. However, neither of them is likely to do so.

If you are like me, the grand crème (a double shot with steamed milk that is, somehow, not exactly a café au lait, and considered much less prissy, besides) will be insufficient. Your dose of caffeine has not been filled. But the price is too steep to order a second cup, and besides, you are confident in the knowledge that, in a few hours, you will order an espresso, perhaps at this same counter.*

That cup will be served with a little cinnamon cookie called a “Speculoos,” which incorporates in its name the slang word for “toilet paper” (pécul) and the Latinate word for “asshole” (cul), and is by happy chance manufactured by Lotus, the largest manufacturer of toilet paper in France.

You will try not to think about this.

You will, however, remember quite happily that there will be another cup of espresso after lunch, and another in the afternoon. You will be fortified and ready for what comes.

This is how it is done.

NOTE: You will not order a grand crème except between the hours of 8 and 10:30 in the morning. Otherwise, you will subject yourself to scorn and mockery that will scar you for life, if indeed you manage to survive the attempt.

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07 November 2010

Two Divas, and a Few Disappointments

Shirley Verrett as Neocle,
the Corinthian commander, 1975

We call them divas — goddesses — but they’re mortal. Nowadays, we’re losing a great many fine singers whose work steered me through my ear­li­est expeditions in music: I am reaching that age, and they are reaching theirs, when these things happen as a matter of course. And yet I’m saddened by the losses.

Among Shirley Verrett’s many accomplishments, she was the first mezzo I heard in opera, on that fateful night 35 years ago in Dallas. There isn’t a mezzo at all in Pagliacci, the only other opera I’d heard, and so it’s possible that I required the presence of a mezzo in order to become an opera-lover. Or perhaps the lesson is that, if Verrett had botched the job, I might not have become a mezzo-lover.

Backstage at the Met during Les Troyens: Verrett made history
by singing both Cassandre and Didon.

Verrett was in any case awfully good, I thought at the time, once I got over the fact that she was playing a man in The Siege of Corinth: Neocle, the Greek general. This adjustment didn’t take terribly long, since I’d grown up listening to Mary Martin play a boy.

Neocle discovers in the first scene that Pamira, his betrothed, is in love with another man (and a real man in this case, a bass-baritone). With Corinth under siege, he takes a time-out to demand that her father settle the matter — giving the enemy the perfect opportunity to storm the city. Apart from that lapse of judgment, he’s a paragon of duty: his own, Pamira’s, you name it. This could make for dull company, but Verrett acted with real power.

That first night, I didn’t know enough about singing to appreciate what she did mu­si­cally, but since then, I’ve listened to the recording a thousand times. With a voice at once dark and gleam­ing, she colors even the most intricate passages with such character: prideful, sorrowing, a bit angry.

She performed a wide repertory, and I cherish several of her recordings. I’d love to have seen her as Lady M or Carmen, as Dalila or Amneris. People who were lucky enough are still raving about some of those performances. But by the time I got to New York, Verrett was focusing more on soprano roles, and the reports I heard weren’t encouraging. I didn’t have much money for Met tickets, even for performances I yearned to attend, much less those about which I was unenthusiastic. And so I missed out on the rest of Verrett’s career.

Siege: Beverly Sills with Justino Diaz
Do you see why Pamina prefers Maometto over Neocle?

I missed out on Joan Sutherland’s career, too, but willfully so. My friends grieve now for the Australian soprano, but I never liked her: she was quite simply one of the dullest singers I ever heard, and proof that perfect technique is in itself insufficient to move me. I never had the privilege of hearing her in the opera house or concert hall, but her recordings and broadcasts were such a compendium of my pet peeves that I never tried to go. (And probably I couldn’t have fought my way through the mobs of people who really wanted to hear her.)

What, then, were the faults of this woman now eulogized as the most per­fect of all singers? You can sum them up in a single word: inex­pres­sivity.

Sutherland in 1975, the year I became an opera-lover

Even her fans will concede that she wasn’t much of an actress; a TIME Magazine critic once observed that she “achieved her best effects by standing majestically still,” which is only rarely my idea of good the­a­ter. I found her nearly unwatchable. Moreover, she had appallingly bad diction. I once heard her sing a familiar Christmas carol that I couldn’t even recognize until the radio announcer identified it after­ward.

Late in her career, she proudly told interviewers that she’d been work­ing hard to improve her diction, and in the pages of Opera News, my friend Brian Kellow will tell you she succeeded. Pace, Brian, she did not. I watched the telecast of the very Anna Bolena Brian praises, when Sutherland sang — with hardly any consonants at all — the fiery final aria, “Coppia iniqua,” which really demands that the consonants be spat.

I’m no Wagnerite, but I do believe in opera as total art. I can make allow­ances for weak stagecraft or some inattention to the text — heck, I’m even willing to forgive Brandon Jovanovich for mispronouncing his most famous aria in Carmen the other night (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetie”?) and for singing it too sweetly. Still, a singer has to make some kind of effort toward drama and poetry. I never had any indication that Sutherland did so.

Even on purely musical questions — the very areas where she ostensibly knew no peer — Sutherland disappointed me. She was indulged, I think, by her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge; indeed, I’ve grown to admire some of her earlier recordings, with other, superior conductors. By the time I got interested in opera, Sutherland’s voice had begun to droop already; Bonynge actually seemed to exacerbate this flaw with soggy or sloppy tempo.

Like them or not, you had to buy their recordings, back in the day, because Bonynge and Sutherland so often tackled operas you couldn’t hear anywhere else. But as soon as other artists recorded Rodelinda and Hamlet, I got rid of my Sutherland albums.*

It’s possible I’d feel differently if I’d ever been in the room with the woman, where the size of her voice and the force of her personality might have moved me, as they haven’t on recordings, radio, and television. Mine is admittedly a minority response to her; I daresay I ought to have waited a longer interval before pronouncing it, when so many of my friends, like Brian, are heartbroken by Sutherland’s death. But in truth, I’m fed up with reading how “perfect” this woman was.

Nevertheless, when I listen to these friends — some of whom are sing­ers themselves, far greater artists than Sutherland ever was — I do feel a sadness not unlike that I feel for the passing of Shirley Verrett. Both women delivered undeniably thrilling experiences in opera to my friends and to thousands, perhaps millions of others. For me, however, both singers represent many missed opportunities — of different kinds.

*NOTE: Sutherland often recorded with Gabriel Bacquier. Yes, I’ll hold onto those albums.

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05 November 2010

Interview: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet on Elektra

In Berlin

The story goes that, with his score for Elektra, Richard Strauss pushed the musical envelope so far that even he got scared; thereafter, he retreated to music that was more melodic and more comfortable. Which is to say that he might as well have written the title role of Elektra precisely with soprano Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet in mind. She thrives on a big sing and a juicy dramatic role; at the forefront of the most demanding repertoire, she’s an artist who constantly pushes the envelope.

I came thisclose to riding a bus to Berlin for 32 hours, just to hear her role debut, but I missed out. I have another chance this month, in Geneva, where Jeanne-Michèle performs Elektra again. By now, she’s lived with this music and explored the territory thoroughly, and I asked her to share a bit of her perspective, as a preview. Despite a busy rehearsal schedule, she found time to answer my questions.

In concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, January 2010.
According to The Guardian, her Elektra “rippled with intelligence and nuance” in this performance, which was recorded for release on CD (forthcoming).

WVM: When you first told me you were going to sing Elektra, I was thrilled: the part seems such a good fit for you vocally, dramatically, and even temperamentally, because you’re an artist who really likes to challenge herself. Now you’ve performed the role several times in a couple of productions: has Elektra turned out to be a good fit after all?

JMC: My first serious contact with Elektra was as the Fourth Maid in Spoleto. Deborah Polaski sang Elektra and Helga Dernesch was Klytemnestra (and I use “was” intentionally). I was blown away and terrified that people told me I was a baby Elektra, Elektra-in-training.

The great Helga Dernesch as Klytemnestra

Fast-forward to now. I am in my fourth production and have done two concert series and, I hope, finally have her really in my voice and skin. As you point out, this is a daunting process and will continue as long as I am singing Elektra, I am sure. (And maybe when I move to Klytemnestra, too!) As a singer, I am drawn to the most challenging repertoire and characters. I look to feel them and fill them, change and grow with and through them. Elektra is for me one of the most horrible and rewarding to inhabit. I have come to love her, to want to hold her and make it all better, something that cannot be done.

JMC as Elektra, in Warsaw

To be in her and stay connected to myself, hold onto sanity somehow, is the real challenge. Singing this music requires some emotional distance; the vocal demands encompass everything, save coloratura. Each time I sing her, I get better at feeling my own lines, knowing where to step back and just let the music make the point.

WVM: It’s such a demanding role. How did you prepare for it the first time? Or, to put it another way, where do you start when you take on a challenge like this one?

In Berlin, with Marianne Uhl as Chrysothemis

JMC: Someone recently played a Flagstad interview in which she was talking about her repertoire. She said that just being older and experienced was necessary to sing the big roles. That said, all my life has prepared me for these parts. Years on the stage (it is my 20th career anniversary right now) and years of learning the languages of the late-19th- and 20th-century composers, and loving their music. Then there is just gathering info, the Greek plays, the modern plays derived from the Greek ones, psychology and history (this time Moby-Dick, looking at Ahab and Elektra’s parallels) … it never ends, as you know.

And, for me, soul-searching: finding how and where the psyche of Elektra and mine can meet, or not; how our stories can intertwine to bring her to life. This is not always simple. I spend a lot of time journaling and fiddling on the piano. Then there are the words and notes.

In Berlin, with Alfred Walker as Orest

WVM: Have any of your directors or conductors or colleagues really illuminated some aspect of the role or changed your initial perspective in a meaningful way?

JMC: In colleagues, I have been blessed. I have only done one production in which the director believed the story is only one of hatred and horror with no real interest in the history that brought these characters to their current state, and he was eventually willing to be won over to a more balanced psychological read. Certainly for me, it was interesting to give distance to Elektra’s pain, to just look at her hatred and not her desperation and terror and loneliness.

In Berlin, with Henschel as Klytemnestra

Klytemnestras are, naturally, Elektra’s teachers. From my first stage mom, Jane Henschel, to my current, Eva Marton, I have learned so much from these ladies. Elektra is, after all, Klytemnestra’s daughter, and their routes to “K” inform my “E.” Of course, sharing a stage with Eva is a lesson unto itself. She has been very generous with me and I relish this opportunity to share the stage with her.

In this production here in Geneva, we have a husband-and-wife directorial team, Christof Nel and Martina Jochem. Martina is a psychologist and they have worked with me to play the insecure, childish side of Elektra even more. It is a challenge to balance the big exultant musical moments with this, and it helps make sense of some of the “daring” moments of attack and retreat with Klytemnestra.

Is there a definitive take? I think not, which is one reason this story has been around for millennia. It asks us to address these questions over and over.

In Berlin

WVM: The Ancient Greeks would reenact this story to help audiences achieve catharsis, and I wonder how you as a performer feel afterward: exhausted, ground down, or enlightened, uplifted, or something altogether different?

JMC: In the end, I feel emotionally exhausted, depleted and hungry. Some productions end with exultation, a death with a smile on her face, but this is not one of them. I hope there is a bit of a glow in the final moments when Elektra is lost in the glory of righting her world, that somehow more death and blood will erase the past deaths, but she is her mother’s daughter, and the story just continues.

In Warsaw, with Ewa Podles as Klytemnestra

WVM: What’s next on your schedule?

JMC: I am very excited for this winter. I am finishing the Ring Cycle in Strasbourg, Opéra National du Rhin, with my first Götterdämmerung Brünnhilde, then I am singing and recording Erwartung with Ekka-Pekka Saraste and the WDR in Cologne, and finally I sing the beautiful Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleu in Barcelona. Needless to say, I am madly studying and preparing all these new roles, reading reading reading and spending lots of time at the piano. I find lots of joy and exhilaration in the process!

Music by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hoffmannsthal

Christof Nel, director; Martina Jochem, scenic analyst
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; Stefan Soltesz, conductor
Grand Théâtre de Genève
November 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25 at 8PM

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02 November 2010

Janice Hall’s ‘Grand Illusions’

An act with legs: Janice Hall pays tribute to Dietrich

Among the many artists whose work I’ve enjoyed at Fort Worth Opera, none has impressed me more than soprano Janice Hall. A knockout Governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw in 2003, she bowled me over in Eötvös’ adaptation of Kushner’s Angels in America, in which she played what might be called the Meryl Streep roles: Hannah Pitt and the Rabbi, as well as the Angel Asiatica. Incredibly, that wasn’t challenge enough for her, and a fourth role was added, that of an elderly Russian revolutionary (male), in a spoken monologue (restored to the work with the consent of the composer). To facilitate her already-numerous costume changes, Janice performed the monologue on film — but she nailed the speech in one take.

Not a lot of opera singers can negotiate a long spoken text: it requires training that few singers get. (Likewise, few actors can handle a lengthy aria.) But Janice isn’t like other singers, and it was in Angels that I began to get an inkling of her gifts. I say “inkling,” because I’m still finding out: I‘m not sure I’ll ever do more than scratch the surface of her talents.

Lately, she’s been pushing those talents in a new direction, and tomorrow night in Manhattan, this sometime Salome unveils her latest creation: a cabaret tribute to Marlene Dietrich. Yes, you read that right.

I got a sample of Janice’s Dietrich last week, when she performed Cole Porter’s “The Laziest Gal in Town” at the Birdland nightclub in New York. While Dietrich didn’t have much voice (“Little Miss No-Talent,” Lotte Lenya called her), Janice surely does, and it’s remarkable to hear how she applies her superior range and musicality to the song, while still respecting Dietrich’s essence. To a degree, I suspect that Janice’s acting skills come into play here: she is portraying Dietrich, not imitating her.

Janice’s most recent Fort Worth triumph:
As the Sea, the poet’s muse, in Martín’s Before Night Falls.
With Wes Mason as Reynaldo Arenas.
Photo by Ellen Appel©

But it’s harder, if not impossible, to explain how Janice handles a microphone so expertly, or how she bends the words and music to her own expressive ends. Hers is a witty, assured interpretation, casting new light on a very familiar song. I found myself laughing at jokes in the text that I’d ignored or forgotten, all the while soaking up Janice’s lovely voice and playful personality.

Cabaret is, as I say, a new direction for Janice, and I predict she’s headed straight to the top. If you want to get in on the ground floor, check out her act at the Metropolitan Room. I’ll be there tomorrow night.

Grand Illusions: The Music of Marlene Dietrich
Musical direction: Paul Trueblood
Direction: Peter Napolitano

The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd St, between 5th & 6th Avenues
New York, NY 10010
Tel: 212 206 0440
To purchase tickets online, click here.

Wednesday, November 3rd @ 9:30
Saturday, November 6th @ 4:00
Saturday, November 13th @ 4:00
Sunday, November 21st @ 4:00
Wednesday, December 8th @ 9:30

Janice & Bill: The New Bobbsey Twins in matching outfits.
Bass Hall (no relation), June 2010

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