Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Dr.
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Dr.
Cabaret, when it's working, is like good sex: It's intimate, passionate, and soulfully satisfying. By way of comparison, the new Jimmy Webb, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr. show at Feinstein's at the Regency is more like artificial insemination. The act, which runs through March 29, is crafted as poorly as a building made of expensive materials but held together with two cent nails. One can't help feeling that these three talented people, not to mention the audience, are being let down by a poorly conceived program.

The show initially appears to have been designed as a tribute to Jimmy Webb, with McCoo and Davis performing the songwriters' major contributions to their onetime top-of-the-world pop group, The Fifth Dimension. But there must have been some heavy negotiations about the content of the program. It begins with McCoo and Davis singing a couple of Webb's tunes; then, suddenly, there is a three-song medley tribute to Laura Nyro (who also wrote hits for The Fifth Dimension), during which Webb awkwardly leaves the stage. He later disappears for a second time, and for much the same reason: It's not his music being celebrated at that point.

Despite the fact that substantially more than half the songs in the program were penned by Webb, the show finally comes across as a weird and unfulfilling cut and paste performance that is largely a Fifth Dimension nostalgia show. If Webb weren't physically present, we wouldn't have been misled into thinking the evening would be centered around his songwriting; still, we're glad he's there because he brings to the proceedings a more winning personal style than McCoo or Davis. When Webb isn't present, this cabaret act has the smell of a Las Vegas lounge show.

Jimmy Webb
Jimmy Webb
The patter is one of the prime reasons why this show is such a trial. When all three of the performers enter to start things off, they pretend they're at a rehearsal, delivering dialogue that is painfully forced. They give up on this rehearsal concept part way through the show, but the dialogue (and their delivery of it) never much improves.

Happily, the singing is better. McCoo, looking sensational, sometimes matches her sound to her appearance. Davis doesn't have a rangy voice, but he knocks out his numbers with a brassy chutzpah. If they hit some wayward notes, at least they're trying to freshen up some of their golden oldies. The couple has their best moment together singing "Didn't We" (Webb) with commitment and feeling. Among the solo numbers, McCoo scores in "One Less Bell To Answer" (Burt Bachrach/Hal David). Despite occasional highlights, the act only gets a major, much needed lift when Webb, McCoo, and Davis sing together at the end. By that point, however, it's pretty much beyond saving.