Petula Clark is best known as a singer, but on the basis of her cabaret show at Feinstein’s – her first such show in the city since the 1970s – I’d venture to say she’s even stronger as an actor and writer. Sure she’s won two Grammy Awards, and one of the evening’s high points is a beautifully sung “La Vie En Rose” (on which it should be noted, Petula accompanies herself gorgeously on piano).
But that “La Vie” is stunning in part because she so clearly acts, in both her singing and playing, the emotional story behind the song. And the very highest point of the evening is Clark’s reading of her own poem “The Theatre” – a refreshingly honest love letter to that art form. She prepares the audience for it very cleverly, comically anticipating their groans of “oh God, a poem”. Even though people generally think of Clark as as phenomenon of the 1960s, she in fact had been acting since her childhood in the 1940s, and that shines through.
The evening didn’t start out so promisingly, with Clark singing a terribly cheesy arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate On You”. But then she went on to perform her chart-topping pop hits like “Downtown,” “I Know A Place” and “My Love,” generally in ways that were intriguingly more bluesy that the originals.
Even stronger though, were songs from her theatrical career from shows such as Sunset Boulevard, Blood Brothers and Finian’s Rainbow – these are where Petula, the committed actress, gave the most help to Petula the pop singer. All in all, this act is a pretty fun entry in New York’s cabaret world, and for someone who hasn’t done this kind of thing in decades, pretty damn good.
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