A Yum-Yummy Mikado
The Siegels give thanks for The Mikado, kvell over Kurt Elling, and get a kick out of Edie.
This presentation of the classic features some clever updating of the lyrics to indlude references to the internet, Paris Hilton, and present-day politics. At its core, though, is the art of G&S, full of brash style and wit. The players are very much up to the challenge of the material, with Michael Scott Harris as a charming, big voiced Nanki-Poo, Louis Dall'Ava as a wonderfully over-the-top Pooh-Bah, and Stephen Quint as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.
At the performance we attended, understudy Jennifer Piacenti was -- if you'll excuse the expression -- delicious as Yum-Yum. Thanks to the company's artistic director, Albert Bergeret, for keeping the G&S repertoire alive and well and living in New York.
Kvelling About Elling
In an age of manufactured jazz, when record labels get behind pretty faces and postured attitudes, it's beyond refreshing to hear a true artist combine style and substance. Kurt Elling, who's holding forth at Birdland through Saturday night, is the real deal. His show is recommended to those searching for someone with impeccable jazz chops and a close attention to lyrics. This guy has a terrific, rangy voice with a touch of Sinatra's timbre; if the Chairman of the Board had been a jazz singer rather than a saloon singer, he might have been Kurt Elling.
The comparison between Sinatra and Elling is prompted less by their passing vocal similarity than by the shared talent of skillful phrasing. Elling takes songs from all across the musical landscape, from standards to contemporary pop tunes, and sings the lyrics with uncommon feeling. All the while, he infuses his performances with a pure jazz intensity that recalls the masters. He's that rare cat who can scat the way Astaire could tap and can sing the blues as if he were on Holliday. When we first caught him a couple of years ago at the Oak Room, doing a formal show, we were hooked; seeing and hearing him in his more natural habitat at Birdland, we appreciated his artistry even more.
Getting a Kick Out of Edie
The Chelsea club Helen's is starting to get a reputation for hosting the city's top drag queens. Recently, the multi-voiced celebrity impersonator Jimmy James had a very long run there; now comes Edie, who'll be playing the room on Thursday, January 19 at 9:30pm. She's a high-kicking character who has got three weapons in her cabaret arsenal: her two legs and her personality.
Edie could be the dance captain of The Rockettes; her high kicks are that stratospheric. But you can't just kick for an hour and call it an act. Happily, she's also quick-witted, getting laughs from her playful interaction with the paying customers. The singing and dancing that she does is essentially the edible shell around the tasty treat of her patter. (Since she was suffering from a bad cold when we saw her, we'll defer further comment on her vocal ability.)
This unique performer has been cast in the ensemble of the upcoming Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera. It will be great fun to hear what Edie has to say in her next act, after that show has come and gone.