Cabaret Review by Stephen Hanks
Back in the 1970s and '80s, when the National Hockey League was at its pugilistic pinnacle, the joke was, "I went to the fights last night and a hockey game broke out." I thought of a variation on that theme last Saturday night (October 13) during a show at Town Hall that was part of the venue's eighth annual Cabaret Festival: "I went to a Jekyll & Hyde musical convention tonight and a Linda Eder concert broke out."
I should have read the fine print on the promotions for Eder's show "A New Life" and figured that if her special guests were going to be Robert Cuccioli and Christiane Noll, her co-stars from the original run of J & H, the "Jekkies" were going to be out in full force and ready to shout, "I can leap to a standing ovation in two notes." Eder's audience showed up having imbibed the J & H Kool Aid, a toxic brew that makes one believe that some of the most manipulative, derivative and over-the-top musical theater songs ever written (music by Eder's ex-husband Frank Wildhorn; lyrics by Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse) are Rodgers and Hammerstein classics incarnate. As most of the audience was transforming into grotesquely passionate full Jekkie mode, the show itself manifested a spilt personality-part Eder concert, part J & H reunion show.
Not that the stars weren't on their game. In fact, Eder, Cuccioli and Noll were so magnificent in their polished delivery of nine J & H songs, one wished this crew was coming back to play their original roles in the upcoming revival (set for next April with former American Idol contestent and Tony Award nominee for Rock of Ages, Constantine Maroulis as the lead). It would be worth listening to the Andrew Lloyd Webber-light score just to see the same chemistry the threesome displayed at Town Hall in a limited-run show. Eder opened the evening with a J & H medley of "Sympathy Tenderness"/"Someone Like You," her J & H character Lucy's poignant ballads that more than any songs in Eder's repertoire possess that Barbara Streisand/Celine Dion hybrid aura.
Over the course of the evening and through four costume changes, Eder showed off her beauty and soaring soprano and displayed the affinity for varied song styles that have made her the Babs of the cabaret/concert set. (In fact, while Eder was captivating Town Hall, the legendary Streisand was in Brooklyn opening the new Barclays Center.) Eder was super sexy on a jazzy version of "Stormy Weather," getting into a hold-the-note contest with bass player Conrad Korsch. She was at her ethereal best on "Now," the title track of her last CD, revealed her country chops on a medley of the Patsy Cline classics, "Crazy" and "Walking After Midnight," almost outdid Adelle on the pop singing star's hits "Someone Like You" and "Rolling in the Deep," and was positively mesmerizing on the Act One closer, "Anthem" from the musical Chess.
During the show's two acts, Eder never held court too long before the Jekkies could get their J & H cast and score fix. In addition to the usual suspects ("Take Me As I Am," "Once Upon a Dream," "Dangerous Game," "In His Eyes," and the consecutive Cuccioli solos on "Alive" and "This is the Moment"), Eder and Noll joined forces for a sexy "Bring on the Men," the song that sounds like a cross between the 1968 pop hit "Those Were the Days" and "Oom Pah Pah" from the musical Oliver. The number was cut from the original J & H score but is being added for the upcoming revival. For the finale, the tight trio offered "Money to Burn," a jazz-age style number from Wildhorn's musical Waiting for the Moon about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
As the Jekkies offered their raucous standing ovation that made me feel like I was a stranger in a strange land, Eder comfortably brought me home with her other-worldly rendition of "Over the Rainbow" and I was able to leave the theater one happy little bluebird. --End--