Girls Like Us
Babs, Bette, and Bernadette
Davenport’s, Chicago, IL, November 20, 2016
Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes
Three especially talented ladies — namely Laura Freeman, Beckie Menzie, and Marianne Murphy Orland, — join as Girls Like Us saluting three celebrated singers — namely Barbra Streisand, Bette (Midler, of course, not Davis) and Bernadette Peters. The Girls open with “Ambition,” parodying “Tradition” (Fiddler on the Roof). Indeed, what links their honorees is burning ambition that motivated each to pound the pavement, ultimately leading to the opportunities that made each icon a star. Quite the musical theater baby herself, Freeman delivers a goofy, grand “Miss Marmelstein” (I Can Get It for You Wholesale) which was Streisand’s breakthrough Broadway role. Colleagues Menzie and Murphy Orland add the requisite nagging. While Menzie may be most noted for her keyboard skills, her interpretive skills can dazzle more. This is clear in the edgy, jazzy “Some People” (Gypsy). Complex Mama Rose links Babs, Bette and Bernadette: Bernadette played Rose in a Broadway revival, Bette in the television version, and 70-something Barbra is about to on film. Menzie delivers sensual wonder in “The Way He Makes Me Feel.” Murphy Orland, becoming supple in her higher register, delivers “Broadway Baby” (Sondheim) paired with “Lullabye of Broadway” from Gold Diggers of 1935. Freeman is powerful in a theatricalized presentation of “Last Midnight” recalling the Witch from Into the Woods, a role both she and Bernadette performed back in the day. The trio salutes Midler with their hilarious offering of “It’s the Girl” (an old Boswell Sisters song recorded on Bette’s most recent CD), adding goofy props to their well-executed close harmony. Merely watching Freeman don sequined pasties is worth the ticket price. Another well-performed, close-harmony number delivered with jazzy riffs and considerable sass combines “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” with “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.” Closing with “Ordinary Miracles” (covered by Streisand), the trio reminds us that the important link between their honored divas is their choice to always be their authentic selves. That is a meaningful consideration for any artist.