Review: Rumer Willis

Rumer Willis photo credit credit David Andrako 2016_04_05_CafeCarlyle_20

This girl is the real deal! Rumer Willis may be the oldest daughter of actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, but to quote the song “God Bless the Child” – of which she sings a rousing rendition – she’s definitely “got her own!” Willis covers a very diverse array of material in her Café Carlyle debut, ranging from Kander & Ebb (she did make her Broadway debut in Chicago, after all) to Wynnonie Harris’s hilarious 1951 r&b shouter “Bloodshot Eyes”, to poppier neo-soul material by the likes of Amy Winehouse and Hozier.

Vocally, Willis resembles journeyman soul ladies of the 1960s like Barbara Lewis and Gloria Jones; not the most towering vocal instrument, but strong, flexible and quite expressive. She’s really good at getting inside the character of a song and acting – no, soulfully living its story.

Her between-song patter is relaxed, but could use some shaping. She shows enough potential that it would be worth the time of one of the masters of cabaret writing/directing – a Scott Wittman or Barry Kleinbort, say – to help her out. Slumming, she isn’t, for sure: Willis and music director James Sampliner have definitely given the evening a great ebb and flow. Never too many ballads together or anything like that.

Whether you like it hot and hard-driving or cool and smooth, Willis does it all with an ease and élan beyond her 27 years. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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