New York Observer
March 17-23, 2000
Bistro Bits
By John Hoglund

A Matter of Taste

Cabaret was around for a long time before such issues as theme, structure, and patter, were a concern. Mabel Mercer, for instance, would sit on a chair and take requests. My point is that you do not need to have a theme in order to create a well-spent hour in an intimate setting. However, should you choose to do a theme show, do your homework-and get it right. It can be subtle, revelatory, or simply have a unifying element. A theme can also be designed to take your audience on a journey. Regardless of the reason, if you connect with yourself your material, and, above all, the audience, you will have a show that works on all levels.

Such is the case with several shows that I've caught lately. All share a commonalty, including meeting the canon that determines the success of any show, i.e. that it be thoroughly entertaining and leave the audience wanting more. Maybe it's a matter of taste: good taste.

Speaking of good taste, I can't think of a better example than shimmering soprano Lorna Dallas, who is offering one of the season's finest evenings of cabaret currently on the boards. In her show "Glamorous Night," skillfully directed by Barry Kleinbort and musical-directed by Christopher Denny, she pays tribute to the songs of lyricist Ivor Novello and composer Jerome Kern, whose collaborations include classic shows like "Very Warm for May" and "Arc de Triomphe."

This engaging thrush, who has been a mainstay of the BBC and the London stage for years, shows great affection for the songs she has chosen-and what a grab bag she delivers! There's the familiar beauty "All The Things You Are," sung in a voice as powerful as it is subtle. The sheer color of her controlled diminuendo on the likes of "You Are Love" sweeps the audience with its passionate phrasing. This resolves itself into delicate sustained notes in an almost painfully beautiful reading. It was as though she were wringing each passage out of the deepest recesses of her emotional being.

A medley of "My Heart Belongs to You" and "Love Made the Song" climbed from dramatic intensity to sheer musical loveliness. The discipline and locution of "Bill," from "Show Boat," was sensitive and heartbreaking. For sheer risqué fun, she was a laugh riot on "Nuts in May" and "Josephine," a song she unearthed that hadn't been heard in 60 years!

Along the way, many humorous and absorbing anecdotes illuminate this superb show that should be seen by every cabaret singer climbing the ladder. This is how it can, and should be, done when an artist totally connects with the material and the audience. This may be her local club "debut" but, make no mistake, Lorna Dallas is one of a handful of today's truly great cabaret singers. This is a rare opportunity to see a perfect show by a beautiful lady at the peak of her craft.

Christopher Denny's lush arrangements and keyboard sensitivity couldn't be better, nor could bassist Bob Renino's excellent musicianship. Dallas is at The FireBird on Thurs., March 17, at 9 pm; and Fri., March 18, at 9pm and 11pm.

Back to Lorna's site