Christine Ebersole
(© Kit Kittle)
Christine Ebersole
(© Kit Kittle)
The next person who decides to make an illustrated dictionary needs to put a picture of Christine Ebersole in the "V" section -- next to versatility. Blessed with a remarkable vocal range, an unerring gift for comedy, and an emotional arrow to pierce any heart, the two-time Tony Award winner can seemingly do anything and everything. And if you don't believe me, all the evidence you need is on view at the Cafe Carlyle, where Ebersole is starting off 2011 in spectacular fashion.

As befits Ebersole's talent and confidence, she begins her act -- directed by Scott Wittman -- with a killer jazz-tinged version of "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" that lesser performers would save for the 11 o'clock number. The song is accompanied by some clever comic patter, which continues through a group of delicious numbers: "You Forgot Your Gloves," "Blame It On My Youth," and "Keep Young and Beautiful."

Ebersole returns to familiar anecdotal territory -- her life in Hollywood, her first date with her now-husband, Bill, and the adoption of two children -- for her next section, but there's nothing mundane about her near-revelatory renditions of "On the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and "If I Were A Bell."

Then, just as the bar appears to have been raised to an impossible height, Ebersole tops herself with a breathtakingly heartbreaking suite of "When The World Was Young" and a pairing of Grey Gardens' "Another Winter in a Summer Town" and "Drift Away" that practically drew gasps from the opening night crowd. (And if there was any way to stand comfortably, a prolonged standing ovation would have erupted.)

Wisely, Ebersole brings the show -- and the crowd -- back down to earth, with a lovely version of the hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing," followed by an expansive "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries," and a deadpan take on Sophie Tucker's "You Can't Deep Freeze a Hot Mama" (imagined, by the way, as performed by Hillary Clinton).

That last sentiment may or may not be true, but one thing I do know -- you cant beat Christine Ebersole when it comes to performing a perfect cabaret show.

For tickets and information, call 212-744-1600 or visit www.thecarlyle.com.