Simply put, Barb Jungr is taking the Upper East Side by storm. Her passionate new show at the Café Carlyle, The Men I Love, is a musically and theatrically thrilling evening of re-discovery during which she reveals some of the heretofore overlooked grandeur in the pop/rock music of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, and others of their contemporary ilk. In the process, she makes a powerful statement about including these composers as part of an ever-expanding Great American Songbook. This is not only a show you should see; it’s a show you will love!
The show begins with a stirring — one might even say strutting — version of “Walking in Memphis” (Marc Cohn). She has our blood rising right at the start and she keeps it pumping with “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” (Bob Dylan). For all her power as a vocalist, however, she is at her most emotionally effective when she takes familiar songs and slows them down to investigate their lyrics. With her musical director/pianist, Simon Wallace, providing excellent support, her slow and romantic rendition of Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” turned her audience into believers in her extraordinary taste and talent.
Personalizing Paul Simon’s “My Little Town” by setting it up with a resonant description of her own factory town upbringing near Manchester in the UK, the British-born singer paints a picture that is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. How good is she? She can make you cry when you hear her sing Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” and what she does with Leonard Cohen’s “Night Comes On” is simply heroic in proportion.
Very few cabaret performers have made the leap from playing small clubs in front of tiny audiences to getting a three-week gig at a club like The Café Carlyle. The glass ceiling has often seemed more like a cement wall. But Barb Jungr has broken it on sheer grit and true talent.