Karen Akers Warms the Oak Room
...and the Siegels heartily applaud KAREN AKERS at the Oak Room.
In a brand new show called Haunted Heart (running through April 21), Akers begins with the Brel/Jouannest song "I'm Not Afraid," and she isn't. Not for a second. With eyes flashing from above her Mt. Everest cheekbones, she tells us in no uncertain musical terms, that she has, indeed, come to the cabaret. But unlike many cabaret singers who root their acts in show tunes or in The Great American Songbook, Akers creates a show that is more continental outlook--particularly, Parisian. For instance, she combines the complex, deeply felt French song "J'ai Deux Amours" with the simple American traditional "Shenandoah." The result is emotional combustion. The songs work together because she binds the sensibilities of these two very different cultures.
Akers' sure way with a lyric is magnified throughout her act. She chooses her material with great care and places each song in just the right order to give it maximum exposure. Consider the sudden surprise of "Sympathique," a comic number about the joys of smoking, (Is that French, or what?) The dry wit of the tune is even funnier coming from the lips of the regal Akers. There follows yet another obscure French song, "Les Couleurs du Temps" by Guy Beart, but with new English lyrics by Francesca Blumenthal. The lush and elegant melody of the song crystallizes into something heartbreakingly beautiful when you hear Akers sing the Blumenthal lyric, "I'd like to turn all my tears to confetti."
Yet another surprise comes when, without any announcement, the young Australian singer Kane Alexander emerges from the audience and starts to sing with Akers. Their voices blending like two sweet liqueurs as they perform "There's Always One You Can't Forget" by Alan Jay Lerner and Charles Strouse (from Dance a Little Closer). Akers generously lets the up-and-coming Alexander shine in her show, and the glow reflects admirably upon her.