Review: Christine Ebersole

Originally reviewed for

Undiluted pleasure. A major cabaret event, cabaret history, even. So supreme, the very finest entertainment that New York has to offer. Faaaabulous!

All of those would be apt descriptions of Christine Ebersole’s dazzling new show at the Café Carlyle. She has a high mark to live up to: The act that she did in late 2001 at the much-missed cabaret Arci’s Place is the stuff of cabaret legend. It caused me to write that she is “one of those talents that comes along just a handful of times every generation,” something she proved in spades in her Tony-winning run as Little Edie Beale in the Broadway musical Grey Gardens.

I’m delighted to report that this show is in the same league as the Arci’s Place act. First off, Christine is working with the magnificent John Oddo, like she did last year at the Carlyle. Oddo was musical director for the late, great Rosemary Clooney and he worked with jazz legends like Woody Herman, and it shows in the tight, elegant and powerful arrangements and piano playing he brings to the table.

This also finds her reuniting with director Scott Wittman, who has his own Tony for co-writing the score of Hairspray, and who directed that magical Arci’s Place act. Ebersole, Oddo and Wittman are all working at the top of their powers here, and the results are dumbfoundingly fantastic.

The show opens with the band tearing their way through a pounding rendition of “Hawaiian War Chant” effectively building the excitement for Christine’s entrance. Looking gorgeous and glamorous, she raises the temperature further, with, appropriately enough, “Too Darn Hot”.

She then goes into the witty patter that Wittman is so brilliant at helping singers to develop (though few deliver it with the sparkling élan that comes so naturally to Ebersole), letting us know that we are in for a show on hot topics like “sex, politics, religion…and weather!” The comment about weather gets a laugh, but one of the undeniable high points of the evening is a truly thunderous rendition of “Stormy Weather” that goes miles beyond any other rendition I’ve ever heard.

Ebersole also did a wonderful performance in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit on Broadway last season, and ever since has been working on an album (soon to be released) of Coward songs. She does a handful of his songs in the act, including the lyrical “Matelot” and the sentimental “I’ll See You Again”. If this is any indication of how good the album will be, I can hardly wait.

You absolutely, positively must see this; I’m simply not giving you any other option.

For tickets, click here. Seriously. Now.

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