Judy Kuhn at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency

The Broadway star serves up an incredibly sophisticated suite of love songs.

Judy Kuhn
(© Alexandra Silber)
Judy Kuhn
(© Alexandra Silber)

At a time when genuine cabaret sophistication isn’t cherished as much as it once was, Judy Kuhn has brought a genuinely sophisticated show to Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, serving up a carefully chosen series of songs that deal with the complexities of love.

To get the point across immediately, she starts with Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” and follows it directly with Louis Alter and Milton Drake’s “I Love the Way You’re Breaking My Heart.” Other tunes that arrive in that pulsing vein include Tom Waits’ “Temptation,” Randy Newman’s heart-breaking “Losing You,” the little known Jule Styne-Frank Loesser “Look at You, Look at Me,” and Billy Barnes’ classic character study “Something Cool,” all of which she delivers in her pure, sweet soprano.

An especially salient facet of many of Kuhn’s selections is that they’re truly poetic. Granted, lyrics are all poetic by some definitions, but not in the same way as Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” or Mitchell’s “Help Me” and “Night Ride Home.” And Kuhn, whose acting abilities run to the equally poetic, brings out those inestimable qualities in these tunes — and nowhere more intently than with Adam Guettel’s “Life Is But a Dream.”

For Cole Porter’s exquisite “I Concentrate on You,” Kuhn chants it as if caressing a long silken ribbon. She also finds time for the upside of romance in the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh “The Best is Yet to Come.” She even describes Laura Nyro’s “Goodbye Joe” as the happiest break-up ditty she knows.

In the positive column, she also does a stirring medley of Stephen Sondheim’s “Happiness” and “In Buddy’s Eyes.” And her encore, “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess — which she originated on Broadway — proves both the greatness of the song and her interpretative power.

The relaxed beauty of Kuhn’s program is immeasurably enhanced by musical director Dan Lipton’s arrangements for himself at the piano, Greg Joseph on percussion and Peter Sachon on the cello, which is certainly as poetical an instrument as there is.

Throughout her hour-long show, Kuhn is so attractively even-tempered that she feels amusingly compelled to recount a story in which her 17-year-old daughter asks why someone so content with life sings so many sad songs. Having already recounted how she considers meeting her husband of 20 years a matter of “fate,” Kuhn has no answer for her “sad” predilection. Perhaps she knows somewhere that the burgeoning category offers her an opportunity to be ineffably moving.

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Judy Kuhn

Closed: March 10, 2012