Cabaret Scenes - January 2001

by Peter Leavy

Judy Kaye came to Arci's Place not only with a host of awards for her theater roles in Phantom of the Opera and On the Twentieth Century but with a cabaret credential testifying to her comprehension of what's needed to win over an audience is an intimate setting. On several occasions in the late seventies, while playing the lead in Broadway's On the Twentieth Century (having replaced the ailing Madeline Kahn), she would dash out of the theater as the curtain rang down and head south to the legendary Reno Sweeney's where she supplanted singing to the rafters of a Broadway house with singing to a gathering in a boite.

Seeing her new show, Solo, one was well aware of Kaye's musical theater experience. Two of her numbers harked back to Fannie Brice. Cole Porter's "Weren't We Fools?", which Kaye reported Brice wouldn't sing on her opening night because estranged husband, Nick Arnheim, was in the audience and might have misinterpreted the lyrics of regret. Plus The Sheik of Avenue B, which got the full Brice treatment in a marked New York dialect, seldom heard in cabaret, One thing was for certain. Whether it was the lyrical Arlen/Mercer's "My Shining Hour," with which she opened, or the choice, more than slightly ribald, "Madam's Song" by Sondheim, the singer clearly felt the lyrics and transferred their meaning to her body language. She left little room for uncertainty in the minds of her listeners. Kaye's voice was pure delight, with a rich lower register comfortably supporting pure high notes.

If there was a particular highlight of the evening, it was the sterling rendition of Cole Porter's "After You, Who?" A couple of upbeat country numbers found their way into her selections because, as she noted, it was her show and she liked them. However, the evening was more truly summed up by Kaye's encore, George and Ira's ever-captivating, "Our Love is Here to Stay."

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