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.
Tomorrow night, Friday, September 14, I will be DJing at the Lush & Lively cocktail hour at the Time Out New York Lounge at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street (between 8th & 9th Ave) from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM. The music emphasizes horns and strings, so there will be jazz (classic and “nu”), latin, international orchestral and big band pop (like this Northern Soul-inspired 1987 barnstormer from Scottish duo Hue & Cry, huge hit in the UK, didn’t even dent the charts here) and – of course – lots and lots of disco. The Cosmo special is only $3 from 6:30PM to 7:00 PM, and there are $5 drink specials until 9:00 PM.
Find the Hue & Cry video below.
I’m more than a little partial to comedy that tells a story; Lily Tomlin’s Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe and Jonny McGovern’s Dirty Stuff are two of my favorite performance pieces ever. I also really like evenings that combine stand-up with gay-themed narrative, like most of Judy Gold’s recent work. So I’m not in the least surprised that I positively love Baby Daddy, the act that “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart” Alec Mapa is currently doing at the Laurie Beechman Theater.
The show is mostly about what has happened since Mapa and his husband, documentary film producer Jamison Hebert, adopted a five-year old black boy from Compton. Mapa has structured the act very intelligently, starting with up-to-the-minute topical material (Ann Romney’s “you people” gaffe was one of the first subjects the night I went), passing gradually to stuff about the funnier side of parenting, and zeroing in the more touching side of parenthood only as the show approaches its end.
Alec includes every side of his life in this act: lost luggage on the way to gay cruises, mid-life crisis circuit partying, and musing on the possibility that Christina Crawford was a thankless brat. Mapa is my favorite kind of comedy writer, one who realizes than scatological humor and intellectual wit aren’t mutually exclusive, as a matter of fact they can happen in the same line.
Mapa name-checks musical theatre in general – and Dorothy Loudon in particular – as being the well-spring of his desire to perform. Mapa self-deprecatingly says that this show isn’t going to reach Loudon-worthy heights (though for my money it gets much closer to that kind of incandescence than stand-up usually does). Mapa spins gay parenthood into show biz gold – ya better not miss it, kid!
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.