Douglas Hodge
Douglas Hodge
The first time most New Yorkers saw Douglas Hodge, he was putting on a little more mascara as the drag queen Zaza in the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles, for which he won the Tony Award (having previously won the Olivier Award in London for the same performance). Well, the lack of mascara is just one of the many changes one finds in An Evening with Douglas Hodge, the performer's thoroughly endearing cabaret show now at the Cafe Carlyle.

What Hodge proves during his 60-minute set -- intentionally or not -- is his surprising versatilty: he plays both piano and guitar, performs half a dozen songs that he wrote himself, and traverses the many genres of American music with surprising agility. And yes, he's dressed in pure male regalia.

Hodge's voice has a slightly nasal quality that prove ideally suited to country music and folk rock. Not surprisingly, some of his strongest moments in the show are his rendition of Shel Silverstein's "A Boy Named Sue" (made famous by Johnny Cash), Bob Dylan's "Who Killed Davy Moore," and an inspired pairing of Loudon Wainwright III's "Your Mother and I" with his son, Rufus' "Dinner at Eight."

Still, he has no problem going full-throttle, whether on a swing-tinged "The Best Is Yet to Come," a jazz-flavored rendition of Stevie Wonder's "All In Love Is Fair," an impressively bi-lingual "What Now My Love," and, most espeically, a passionate take on Cy Coleman's and Michael Stewart's underappreciated "Out There" (from Barnum).

He also shows definite promise as a songwriter. While one might not necessarily leave the Carlyle humming his songs, I found his ballad of lost love, "Power Cut," particularly haunting, and his tune, "Boring," about life gone stale, placed a smile on my face. What one might leave humming, of course, is La Cage's peerless anthem, "I Am What I Am," which Hodge delivers expertly as his penultimate number.

As for Hodge, he is clearly a man of many talents, and one only hopes America continues to get the chance to witness them in full bloom.