There is very little in life that can’t be cured by a grand showtune. And after an all-too-long global shutdown, it’s so nice to have live cabaret back where it belongs.
One of the Girls: the Words and Music of Jerry Herman, Klea Blackhurst’s solo show, opened last evening at the posh midtown club Birdland and it’s 90 minutes of undiluted happiness.
Blackhurst, who is widely considered one of the finest interpreters of Jerry Herman’s work, paid homage to the late composer (and her friend) from some of his best-known shows. She also threw in some more obscure, but equally thrilling material.
A trio of selections from Hello, Dolly opened the evening, followed by the songs of Mame and La Cage Aux Folles.
The highlight of the evening was “My Type” a piece that Herman gave her during a visit to his home in 2019. Although it was written for a musical revue, he told her that the song was perfect for her. It undoubtedly carried the Herman stamp of joy and positivity. The title song from the less-successful Dear World was another superb and poignant moment.
Blackhurst offers some unique biographical information and some personal anecdotes about Herman, all while providing laughs and smiles from her audience. She’s the type of singer from bygone days; a stalwart entertainer whose voice is an unlikely pairing of Rosemary Clooney and Ethel Merman (unsurprisingly, she’s authored a book on the latter and has performed a show based on her work). Her vocal technique combines sweetness and sass and every word she sings is crystal clear- a true rarity when most modern vocalists require a google search for lyric comprehension.
Director Mark Waldrop has structured a tightly woven, focused show. Occasionally, Blackhurst loses her way throughout the patter but she’s such an engaging force that she laughs it off, putting her guests at ease. Pianist Michael Rice, drummer Aaron Russell, and Ray Kilday on bass comprise her Pocket Change trio. These seasoned professionals know the genre well and complement this leading lady for a night of classic entertainment.
Fewer songwriters-past or present- infuse their music with as much bright optimism as Jerry Herman and it’s a wonderful treat to see Blackhurst keep the tuneful torch lit.
Klea Blackhurst in “One of the Girls: the Words and Music of Jerry Herman” runs through Friday, October 22 at 8:30 PM. There is a $40 music charge and a $20 food and beverage minimum. Birdland Theater is located downstairs at Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in Manhattan. For reservations, please call (212) 581-3080 or visit www.BirdlandJazz.com.
Keep up with Klea on her website