I’ve been aware of folk and pop singer Judy Collins since I was a little kid listening to my big sisters albums – Judy’s hit versions of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” and “The Circle Game” have a solid place in my musical memory (though I’d heard both first sung by Native American singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie – Sis had even more of Buffy’s records).
What a treat then, to see Collins, a truly dynamic performer, in an intimate setting like the Cafe Carlyle. She’s an authentic river of song, in truly golden voice. She’ll be talking about a song in passing, and then launch into three or four lines, singing with breathtakingly casual grace and beauty.
When she sings a song in earnest, she’s truly arresting, imbuing each line with subtle style, implying stories behind stories. She’s known as one of the best interpretive artists in pop music, and in this act she brilliantly illuminates songs ranging from traditional folk and Bob Dylan to Anthony Newley and Sondheim and even a touching song of her own about her late mother.
In the current show, she’s mostly interested in tracing the broad outlines of her career, with an emphasis on her early folk days in Greenwich Village. Interestingly, the song person that made her want to be a folk-singer wasn’t another folk-singer, but big band singer Jo Stafford singing the traditional Scottish ballad “Barbara Allen” (which Collins stirringly interprets).
The stories she tells are truly entertaining, varying from the touchingly personal to the hilariously bawdy. She recently published a memoir, and if what she tells here is any indication, it’s probably loads of fun. Collins’s spectacular, undiminished talent always gives me one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in cabaret.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.com.