Particular Talents: Dver, Kettles, and Klaus
The Siegels experience three diverse performers: Goldie Dver, Marcus Kettles, and Veronica Klaus.
Goldie Dver just won the 2002 MAC Award (with James Beaman) for the musical revue Crazy World, a tribute to the music of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. In her new solo show at Don't Tell Mama, Dver leans heavily on the Newley/Bricusse songbook; five of the act's 11 numbers are entirely or partially devoted to that team's creations. It's not unusual for a performer to carry forward recent work into a subsequent show, but this seemed to us too high a proportion. Granted, some of the songs were reinterpreted and/or musically rearranged, but the net effect is a sense of someone rushing forward to do an act before having enough new material to warrant it. Once she dutifully gets through her first three Newley/Bricusse songs, Dver shakes off the ghost of her past success and begins to offer the audience a show that is oftentimes exciting and freshly imagined.
A delicate and winning dramatic arc is created by her combination of three songs, "Yesterday" (Newley/Bricusse), "Remember" (Irving Berlin), and "I Wonder Who's Kissing Him Now" (Howard/Orlob/Adams). As directed with a winsome theatricality by James Beaman, Dver sits quietly on the side of the stage in a shimmering pool of light (Sean Moninger gets credit here) as she sings of a lost love with heartbreaking restraint, finally wounding herself with the thought of someone else getting his kisses. This medley, the show's centerpiece, is beautifully conceived and arranged by musical director David Maiocco, as well as touchingly acted and sung by Dver.
The singer has a big, brassy voice that is a valuable asset when used on the right songs and at the right time; but, when she's blasting away on a microphone in Don't Tell Mama's back cabaret room, that sound can be harsh. She might profit by putting the microphone down and singing without it. (Incidentally, a lot of cabaret performers should consider the same advice.) If Dver's patter occasionally seemed too scripted, she compensated by choosing some very good songs that are rarely performed in cabaret, including "Just to Look at Him" (Lasser/Gardner), "The Story of Our Lives" (Shepperd/Kenney) and "One Again" by Hal Hackady and her husband, Paul Dver.
The show, titled Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow..., was only performed three times. One assumes it will come back later this year, with some changes, for at least a few more dates.
Anyone who grew up in the 1960s feels a link to that psychedelic era. Some protested the Vietnam War, some were at Woodstock, and some claim they were at Woodstock. But your tie-dyed connections likely pale in comparison to those of Marcus Kettles, who was literally a 1960s love child. In his recent cabaret show at Judy's Chelsea, Feelin' Groovy, Kettles recounted his eccentric upbringing by genuine hippie parents. Some of his stories were harrowing, some of them funny; most, unfortunately, seemed irrelevant to his act. It was one of those autobiographical shows in which we were given more information than we needed to get the context of the songs, yet it was fun to hear the songs again; they ranged from "San Francisco" to "Wild Thing," and Kettles brought a bright-eyed exuberance to the material. Like the decade it portrayed, the show was rather loose and casual. Kettles and his two backup singers didn't always harmonize with great care, but with a true playfulness of spirit. Should Kettles bring this show back, he might want to devote more attention to the songs and make substantial cuts in the patter.
If Veronica Klaus didn't exist, we'd have to invent her. The truth of the matter, however, is she invented herself. Literally. Klaus suggests her life story in a stunning song called "Black Diamond Days," in which she sings "Never had a chance to be a little girl / Changed so fast...she's a woman in this world." Born a man, she's a woman now--an exceptionally talented blues artist who, in the same song, says of growing up in a small Midwestern town: "You just can't force this jewel of a girl into a square setting."
At HERE Arts Center in Soho, Klaus and her four-piece band offered a show that mixed her own piercing material with some less exceptional covers of pop and blues tunes. In her own songs, she combines sex and relationships with an intense honesty; for example, she challenges her audience with "Dirty Little Secret," about having an affair with a married man. Even more effective is her tortured love song "I Can't Believe," in which she questions how she could have fallen in love with a rotten guy. She can't even believe that he loved her.
Klaus told her story in the songs, not the patter, which was gracefully minimal. She has undeniable presence, though some of that presence is overdone with outfits that make too much of a point of her woman's body; she's too talented as a songwriter/singer to have to resort to that kind of exhibitionism. Klaus has a complex sound that is deep but fundamentally feminine. Her voice calls to mind the texture of southern nights, whiskey, and backroom sex, yet she seems to have a backbone as unyielding as steel. This is one tough woman who expresses her pain artfully but doesn't wallow in it. As she also says in "Black Diamond Days," "You can't go back to a church that burned down a lifetime ago."