Eartha Kitt
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna Ltd.)
Eartha Kitt
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna Ltd.)
If you've never seen Eartha Kitt perform her act at the Café Carlyle, don't miss your current opportunity to do so. This 80-years-young nightlife legend is giving what may be the best show of her life. An ageless sex kitten, she purrs with a comic sensuality that continues to be catnip for audiences of all ages while also showing off her still considerable musical chops.

Witness her byplay with the handsome, twenty-something fellow who attended the opening night show with his grandmother. They pair sat ringside, and Kitt playfully flirted with the kid as she sang "Ain't Misbehavin'." When he put his arms out as if reaching for her, she stepped back and quipped, "What would you do with me if you caught me?" The audience roared. Kitt will always be too much woman for any one man, and she will always be the consummate entertainer.

There is a sense of summation in this show. Kitt speaks of having performed all over the world, and her song selection reflects her journeys to England, Japan, the Philippines, France, and Brazil. As she delivers some of her most famous numbers, including "C'est si bon" and "La vie en rose," she shows off her remarkable command of languages.

Kitt's unmistakable sound is what you've come to hear, and even though her voice isn't what it used to be, she doesn't disappoint. With her longtime musical director Daryl Waters and a four-piece band backing her up, she shows off the still meaty sound of her middle register with a trumpeted "Yuska Dara" that sounds like a call to the Diva Goddess from her greatest disciple. When she sings "Come On-a My House" in a hilarious combination of English and Japanese, it isn't about sex, it's all about style.

The show has two very effective arcs; the first begins with "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and then Kitt proceeds to sing the answer, explaining the lows with "How Insensitive" and the highs with "All My Life." She concludes her program with a heartbreaking trio of songs that brought tears to our eyes and to hers: The classic "September Song" acknowledges that her days have dwindled "to a precious few," then she recounts her life in a version of "It Was a Very Good Year" with revised lyrics and, after returning briefly to "September Song," sweeps into a wonderfully defiant performance of "Here's To Life."

On opening night, Kitt gave heartfelt thanks to the audience, noting that they have come out to see her year in and year out -- this is her 12th year at the Carlyle -- despite the fact that she hasn't had a hit record or starred in a hit movie in a very long time. The audience returned that thanks, and love, 10 times over in a standing ovation. Here's to Eartha Kitt!