Cabaret Review: Elaine Stritch: Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time

Originally reviewed for

Broadway legend Elaine Stritch’s latest cabaret show Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time (has anyone ever dared to do two at a time?) finds her doing her very favorite songs by her fellow Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, including some written with such collaborators as Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne. With her longtime music director Rob Bowman leading a six-piece band, Elaine works overtime to entertain audiences with Stephen’s biggest showstoppers.

Stritch is most famous today for her wildly successful autobiographical 2002 theater piece Elaine Stritch at Liberty. In her late seventies at the time of At Liberty, her voice was ragged but she acted the hell out of any song that came her way. Soon to be 85, the voice is more ragged still, but the power of her acting has not diminished one whit. The second song is “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy — let’s just take a moment to applaud the balls it takes do that epic as your second number! — and I have never seen a more frighteningly lucid Rose. This Rose knows she’s batshit crazy and doesn’t give a damn. Eek!

Stritch has a tender story to tell about the love of her life, John Bay, and his Sondheim-approved parody of “Send in the Clowns” as a Groucho Marx song. Turns out that she and John, Londoners at the time, had stayed at the Carlyle when they first came to see the show “Clowns” comes from, A Little Night Music. Today, she commutes to the show. an elevator ride down from her residence in the Carlyle Hotel, the very same room she shared with Bay.

She does some unusual takes on well-known songs: she delivers “Broadway Baby” as the wistful rumination of a Broadway star looking back on her gypsy days, and delivers the lyrics of “Every Day a Little Death” as a devastatingly effective monologue. Perhaps best of all is her ruefully tender encore of “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” from Sondheim’s most recent, Road Show. By and large, though, this is Broadway comfort food (in a good way) as Stritch sells every clever Sondheim-ism to the back row.

For tickets, click here.

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