Valerie Swift Bird : Sister Moon at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia

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Valerie Swift Bird: Sister Moon

Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, West Hollywod, CA, July 10, 2014

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Bird_ValerieSwift500A dancer dances, but if the dancer is Valerie Swift Bird, she also sings and bubbles and  keeps an audience thoroughly entertained. Making her solo cabaret debut to a packed  room, Swift demonstrated vocal versatility with a wide range of songs, an extremely  outgoing personality and numerous dance moves that showed off her skill in the art  form she pursued before moving into this more intimate setting.

Swift is petite and full of energy, and was constantly moving her hands and arms and hips in a series of expressive gestures that enabled her to integrate her dance background to enhance her stage presence as a cabaret performer. In an autobiographical, jazz-infused show, Swift showed off a cornucopia of styles — being cool and sexy in Sting’s “Sister Moon,” demonstrating her rocker-chick persona in a powerful, sensuous take on “Magic Man” (Ann Wilson/Nancy Wilson), and bringing good vibrations to the room with a crystal singing bowl during an upbeat “Magic Carpet Ride” (John Kay/Rushton Moreve). Reflecting on seeing her first go-go dancers on a trip to New York, she did a delightful, driving version of “Easy Money” (Cy Coleman/Ira Gasman), then slowed the pace to a reverie with “Fixing a Hole” (Paul McCartney) and delivered the staccato lyrics of Craig Carnelia’s “Just a Housewife” gently and sincerely in a salute to her mother.

One of the evening’s highlights was “The Music and the Mirror” (Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban) in which Swift recreated the role of Cassie she played in a national tour of A Chorus Line — smoothly alternating stories about her life with the song’s lyrics in a sweet, mesmerizing weaving of words and music, then ending with a bit of the strut from the show’s “One.” She added to the eclectic mix with: the humorous “Bacon” (Mary Liz McNamara), which had the audience in hysterics; a couple of songs marking the night she met her future husband on a blind date — “Big Spender” (Coleman/Dorothy Fields), which included a lot of dance moves within a very small space, combined with a sly, purring version of “Some Cats Know” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller); and a gentle, haunting take on Joni Mitchell’s classic “Blue,” during which Swift pounded a Celtic frame drum.

Swift was also vocally strong on “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” (Jason Robert Brown), a song she said has haunted her, and very expansive as she danced her way from the stage area and through the room on “Dancing in the Moonlight” (Sherman Kelly).

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Swift had a strong combo backing her, with Musical Director Rich Eames on piano, Gabe Davis on bass and Lee Spath on drums, each of whom had moments to shine on his own. The show was directed by Pat Whiteman, a master cabaret performer in her own right.