The first is raconteur. A Princeton graduate, Shields is an extremely intelligent woman, but also a very funny one with a singular knack for telling stories. Her patter here (written by her and guided by director Mark Waldrop) is often pitch-perfect, just revealing enough to let you feel you've become a new, trusted friend. Take her recollection of dating pop star George Michael during her freshman year, which is so deliciously self-deprecating and outright hilarious it's practically worth the cover charge. (Let's say she, like much of America, was a bit slow on the uptake.)
More surprisingly, Shields can add the words "pop singer" to her resume. She opens the act with back-to-back versions of James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face" and Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "One Fine Day" that display a sure sense of exuberance; yet she's equally -- if not more -- at home with the genuine pathos of Lennon & McCartney's "In My Life" or the romantic beauty of Claire Hamill's "Takes My Breath Away" (which she reveals was performed by Tuck & Patti at her wedding).
Smartly, most of the act is comprised of songs from Broadway and film, including many she previously performed on the Great White Way. There's a distinct comfort level to her sure-handed renditions of "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man" and "Swing" (both from Wonderful Town) and she acquits herself more-than-admirably on "Me and My Baby" (from Chicago) and an understated rendition of "Maybe This Time" (from Cabaret).
She also does a remarkably fine job with Rupert Holmes' razor-sharp "Queen Bee" (from the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born), in which she intersperses verses of the song with heartfelt and honest tales of her family history, especially life with her ambitious mother, Teri.
Shields -- who talks about having to overcome her fear of doing a solo act for the first time -- also deserves brownie points for stepping out of her comfort zone for some unusual selections: Stephen Sondheim and Mary Rodgers' tongue-twisting The Boy From..."; "After All," a song from the Broadway-bound musical Ever After by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich that she delivers with great passion (even if it doesn't sit completely comfortably in her vocal range); and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater's "Can't Get There From Here," a lovely, introspective ballad from the Broadway-bound show Leap of Faith -- which she performed in L.A. last year (and which was sung in the musical by her uber-talented co-star Raul Esparza), to which she brings a distinct understanding of the lyrics.
It's undeniable that in terms of sheer vocal prowess or interpretive skills, Shields isn't Betty Buckley, Christine Ebersole, or Donna Murphy, but if you can get to Feinstein's for In My Life, you're in for a totally worthwhile evening of entertainment from a performer who possesses sheer star quality.
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