Review: Christine Ebersole

This is the very pinnacle of cabaret. I never miss a single cabaret show by Ebersole, because they are almost guaranteed to be exceptional. One of her finest – and the first one I saw – was built thematically around her becoming an adoptive mother. The current one, titled “After the Ball,” finds her on the other end of that journey, becoming an empty nester and looking forward “to my approaching dotage” (a phrase she utters with comically bright cheer). And wouldn’t you know it, this act is nearly the match for that other one long ago, truly stellar cabaret and not to be missed.

One of the things (among many) I find most astonishing about Ebersole is her exquisite taste when it comes to vocal interpretation. She has a flawless sense of when to give a song a semi-operatic vibrato, when to belt it, and when to speak-sing. For example, she assays “What Did You Do to Your Face” a folk song by Susan Werner about plastic surgery with a spoken passage here, a slightly syncopated moment of doubt there. But when she sings Al Jolson’s hit “Toot, Toot Tootsie! (Goo’bye)” she gives it a shake-the-rafters belt that would probably intimidate Jolson himself.

The act takes a decisively rueful, reflective turn when she ruminates on the ways in which her children were never 100% from her. Her take on Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green” has real ache. But she also finds the humor in the situation, as when she comments on one child’s mathematical genius – “she didn’t get that from me,” she laughs, “the most she got from this cabaret singer was ‘snap on 2 and 4!’”

The final arc of the act finds Ebersole girding her loins to take on the future, most comically in Peggy Lee’s “Ready to Begin Again.” She takes inspiration from her own parents, and goes out on a high note. Very personal, and damned good. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

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

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